Colts Confident in Ability to Run in the Post-Season
INDIANAPOLIS – With one of the top-ranked aerial assaults in the league, the Colts' running game often gets overlooked, but that does not mean the team will shy away from rushing the ball if it has to in the post-season.
Head Coach Jim Caldwell said despite not putting up "gaudy numbers" in the regular season, the Colts are confident they can run the ball with success in the playoffs.
"All in all, we've been efficient runners," Caldwell said. "We've run the ball when we've had to. I think Joe (Addai) has been a real efficient runner and (Donald) Brown, when he's been up, has been efficient as well."
Collectively, the Colts rushed 366 times for 1,294 yards during the regular season, or 3.5 yards per carry. While the numbers might not jump out to some, Caldwell said his running backs have been at their best when their team has needed them the most.
"When you look at the body of work, you might be able to see that we do run it in some stages pretty well," he said.
One area the Colts running backs have succeeded this season, and Addai in particular, is finding the end zone. Despite rushing the ball significantly less than other teams, the Colts scored 16 rushing touchdowns this season, 8th in the AFC, with Addai accounting for 10 of the scores.
Quarterback Peyton Manning described Addai as one of the most underrated players on the team and said the fourth-year veteran has been a "rock" all season.
"What he does in the pass protection sometimes gets overlooked, (but) not by me or the team," Manning said. "He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, and I feel like at critical times he's made some critical runs that we've needed, either to get into the end zone or to get a key first down."
Manning also said rookie Donald Brown has benefited from a good first year and that fellow running backs Mike Hart and Chad Simpson have performed admirably when called upon.
"We're going to need all those guys to play well for us on Saturday," Manning said.
But the team's workhorse has been Addai.
After averaging just 3.4 yards per carry in his first eight games (116 rushes, 399 yards), Addai showed marked improvement over his last seven games, upping his average to 4.2 yards per carry (103 rushes, 429 yards).
To succeed this weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, who own the second-best run defense in the league, Addai said the Colts have to be aware of where the Ravens defenders line up and be aware of what they are trying to do.
"Our thing is to kind of slow the game down and understand what is going on," Addai said. "If we know where they are going to be at, we know what to do.
"That's the biggest thing, just understanding where they'll be," he said.
NO LONGER ROOKIES
Colts players like Donald Brown, Austin Collie and Jerraud Powers are still in their first year in the league, but with a full regular season under their belts, the team is no longer viewing them as rookies.
"There's no question, I kind of do believe in that rule that you are not really a rookie anymore at this point in the season," Manning said. "These guys have played a lot of football."
With help from a deep rookie class, the Colts earned an NFL-best 14-2 record and the number one seed in the AFC playoffs.
But to make a post-season run, the Colts will need their first-year players to keep stepping up.
"We will need them, no matter what," Addai said. "Peyton says it every year, 'Everybody will be needed.'"
Whether it has been dictated by performance or injuries, a slew of rookies have gained valuable experience from extending playing time this season.
Now, with the Colts just days away from their first post-season game, the team is hoping those extra snaps pay off.
"We don't really say, 'Hey they are going to play like young guys,'" Manning said. "We expect them to play like veteran players, and I feel that they will and I think they'll be ready to go on Saturday."
READY TO GO
The build-up has lasted weeks. But come Saturday, the Colts finally will begin their long-awaited second season.
Several of the players said the team has benefited from the 'preparation week' and continued to improve and grow more and more confident as the playoffs approach.
"Each week we come that much closer together," Addai said. "We understand each other. It's different from the last couple of years that I've been here. You really understand that everybody is on the same page.
"Offense, defense, special teams, everyone is working as one, and it carries onto the field," he said.
Center Jeff Saturday, an 11-year veteran, said this is the time of the year that NFL players dream of being a part of.
"This is what it's all about," Saturday said. "You play a lot of tough games throughout the season to get to this point."
Saturday insisted the team is rested, focused and ready to go for Saturday's battle against Baltimore.
"I'm excited about it," he said. "We are playing a great team in the Ravens. This is how you set a legacy. This is how you make things happen, by playing in big games and playing well in them."
GARCON WAITING FOR WORD FOLLOWING HAITI TRAGEDY
Tragedy struck the country of Haiti on Tuesday when a massive earthquake shook the island nation. Reports have relayed word of widespread destruction in the Caribbean country, but many questions remain following the disaster.
One of the people still awaiting word is Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who was born and raised in the United States, but whose family originates from Haiti.
"It's terrible," Garcon said Wednesday. "It's probably the worst thing that could ever happen there. It's a nightmare. It's a poor country, and it's going to take a long time to rebuild."
Garcon said he has too many aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews in Haiti to count, and his mom is trying to get a hold of relatives they have not heard from yet. But with phone lines down, and the country in crisis mode, Garcon said his family has not had much luck.
The wide receiver said he visited Haiti as recently as last year and said he was planning on going back in April to continue helping with projects through his Pierre Garcon Helping Hands Foundation.
With the playoffs this weekend, Garcon said his heart is torn.
"It's tough, but you know you can't do much," he said. "So I have to do my best here. I have to play through them and play for them."
"It's tough," said Caldwell. "I spoke with him this morning…it's a tragic situation. I'm sure it's weighing heavy on his heart. What we can do is support him and pray for him, and we'll certainly continue to do that."
The Colts announced the first injury report of the week on Wednesday with the following players listed as full participation in practice: DEs-Ervin Baldwin (groin), Raheem Brock (hip), Keyunta Dawson (knee), Dwight Freeney (foot) and Robert Mathis (shoulder), LBs-Gary Brackett (quad) and Clint Session (knee), DBs-Melvin Bullitt (shoulder), Aaron Francisco (quad), Tim Jennings (knee) and Jerraud Powers (hamstring), OTs-Ryan Diem (elbow), Charlie Johnson (foot) and Tony Ugoh (knee), WRs-Pierre Garcon (hand) and Reggie Wayne (knee), DTs-Antonio Johnson (shoulder) and Dan Muir (shoulder), QB-Curtis Painter (ankle), OG-Jamey Richard (shoulder), TE-Gijon Robinson (knee) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right hip).