Drive of the Game

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Colts-Cowboys Drive Of The Game: A Blocking And A Rocking

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INDIANAPOLIS — The boxscore will show an eight-play, 44-yard drive taking 3:46 off the clock that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by Marlon Mack.

But let’s take a closer look at the Indianapolis Colts’ Week 15 Drive of the Game, presented by Hays + Sons:

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The Streak Snappers.

After going on the road two weeks ago to defeat the Houston Texans (who had won nine in a row) and then shutting out the Cowboys (who had won five in a row), 23-0, on Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts can lay claim to that nickname, having snapped the NFL’s longest winning streaks in consecutive weeks.

But unlike the game in Houston, which took a little while for either team to show any sign of life, Indianapolis came out on fire Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, jumping out to a quick lead it wouldn’t relinquish thanks to some solid play out of all three phases.

We’ll start with the defense, where coordinator Matt Eberflus is not a fan of the “bend-but-don’t-break” description that some have attached to his unit … but that’s exactly what ended up playing out on the Cowboys’ opening drive.

Dallas seemed to be getting in a bit of a groove running the ball (four rushing attempts for 22 yards on the team’s first seven plays), but once the Cowboys got to the Indianapolis 27-yard line after a nine-yard pass from Dak Prescott to Cole Beasley, Indy put its guard up. After stuffing running back Ezekiel Elliott for a three-yard loss and forcing an incomplete pass, Dallas was forced to bring the field goal unit out.

Then it was the special teams’ turn for the Colts.

Brett Maher’s 48-yard field goal attempt would be blocked by defensive tackle Denico Autry (who continues to fill out his résumé for AFC Defensive Player of the Month), and was recovered by linebacker Darius Leonard (who continues to fill out his résumé for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year) at the Dallas 44-yard line.

It was the first field goal blocked by the Colts since Oct. 29, 2017 vs. Cincinnati.

And then, finally, it was the offense’s turn.

Going up against statistically the best run defense in the NFL, the Colts wanted to establish early that they were going to dictate things on the ground — not the other way around.

So they introduced the Dallas defense to Marlon Mack, whose first carry, on 1st and 10 from the 33, went off the right tackle for 19 yards. The second-year back showed terrific balance after being met by cornerback Chidobe Awuzie at the line of scrimmage, but shedding his tackle attempt and staying upright. From there, Mack showed off his leg drive by carrying safety Jeff Heath for an extra six or seven yards at the end of the play.

Next play? Do it again.

Mack off the right end: six yards.

Next play? Mack up the middle: seven yards to the 1-yard line.

It’d take a couple attempts to find the end zone from there, but on 3rd and Goal from the 1, Mack was finally able to punch it through thanks to some punishing blocks from guard Quenton Nelson and tight end Mo Alie-Cox.

Tone established. 7-0, Colts.

“That block on the special teams was just big early. It just created big-time momentum,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said Monday in his weekly conference call with reporters. “Then offensively we are just really excited about the run game getting going.”

The Colts would end up averaging about five yards per carry on a team that came in allowing an NFL best 3.62 yards per run. They also shut down the league’s leading rusher, Elliott, to the tune of 87 yards on the day, as well as the hottest receiver in the league, Amari Cooper, who finished with four receptions for 32 yards.

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