HOUSTON — The Houston Texans proved to have the toughest run defense in the entire National Football League in 2018, as evidenced by their league-best 3.44 yards-allowed-per-carry average.
But Marlon Mack introduced the Texans’ defense to 2019 with a bang on Saturday.
Thanks in large part to a dominant performance by his offensive line, Mack was able to gash the Texans’ talented defensive front time and time again in Saturday’s Wild Card Round matchup in Houston.
And by the time Indy had wrapped up its 21-7 victory, Mack had set a Colts franchise record with 148 rushing yards, besting the previous record of 147 set by Zack Crockett against the San Diego Chargers back in 1995.
But that’s not all.
The Colts’ 200 total rushing yards on the day? Also a franchise postseason record, besting the previous record 191 yards by Indy in its victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
“Against that defense? I mean that’s the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL,” Colts head coach Frank Reich told Colts.com’s Caroline Cann after the game. “I had a good feeling like we were going to run it well, but 200 yards is quite impressive. That’s a credit to Marlon and those guys up front.”
The Colts struggled to get anything going on the ground in their two other meetings against the Texans this season, running for 41 and 50 yards in Weeks 4 and 14, respectfully, against a defense that didn't allow a single 100-yard rusher throughout the regular season.
That wouldn’t be the case on Saturday.
Indianapolis, which has now won 10 of its last 11 games, already had 85 yards by halftime, including a two-yard touchdown run by Mack, and went into the break a confident bunch with a 21-0 lead.
While the Colts’ overall offensive attack wasn’t humming as well in the second half, Indy continued to pound the rock to milk the clock and get big chunks of yards in the process. The Colts ran the ball 19 times for 115 yards in the final two quarters, with Mack’s 11 carries for 86 yards — which included a 29-yard carry late in the third quarter — leading the way.
“In playoff football, how do you win games?” Reich asked his team in his postgame speech. “You dominate up front!”
The Colts advance to the Divisional Round, where the AFC’s No. 1 seed, the Kansas City Chiefs, await. Kickoff is set for 3:35 p.m. ET next Saturday, Jan. 12, at Arrowhead Stadium, and the game will be televised on NBC.
Kansas City’s defense, by the way? Its 5.0 yards-per-carry-allowed average ranked 31st out of 32 teams in the NFL during the regular season.