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Colts Preparing For One Of NFL's Best Rushing Attacks

Intro: Some of the most unique preparation in an NFL season is the task for the Colts this week. Why have the Titans been so successful in producing the NFL’s third-ranked rushing offense this season?


INDIANAPOLIS – On paper, it looks old fashioned.

On film, it looks new school.

That is how the Tennessee Titans operate one of the NFL's most potent rushing attacks.

It was a philosophy the Titans wanted to build around young quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Spending valuable draft capital on offensive linemen, plus the trade for a former NFL rushing champ has revived a Titans team looking for their first three-game winning streak since 2011.

Establishing a productive run game has been a focus for Tennessee head coach Mike Mularkey.

"We've struggled here my first two years," Mularkey says. "We've really struggled running the football and really had no rhythm with our offense, really no identity and it's tough to create one when you can't run the football.

"So it's pretty important to somehow find a way to run the football."

In finding a way to run the football quite effectively this season, the Titans have won back-to-back games for the first time since 2013.

DeMarco Murray's arrival in free agency has given the Titans a workhorse back.

Murray's 698 yards from scrimmage this season are the second most in the NFL.

He's running behind a line that looks similar to the group that Dallas has built.

Young tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin (both high first-round picks) haven't allowed a sack or a quarterback hit *all season *long (that's 805 combined snaps according to Pro Football Focus).

While that sort of run game production has the Titans looking old school, it's how they run the football which is much more inventive.

Marcus Mariota is the dual-threat quarterback that allows the Titans to be so dangerous in their read-option looks.

In consecutive wins the past two weeks, Mariota has 124 rushing yards.

"Offensively, the run game obviously is where it all starts," Chuck Pagano said earlier this week of getting ready for Tennessee. "They pose a lot of problems just handing the ball off and then they get into the zone-read stuff and everything that comes off of the zone-read stuff is option football with a variety of different things that you have to cover so that is a problem."

Trying to mimic all of that shifting, motion and window dressing can quickly complicate things for a defense.

It's why gap responsibility and discipline up front has to be there on Sunday.

The Colts will have to do it likely without Henry Anderson, and possibly sans Zach Kerr, too.

That only adds to the challenge of the Colts preparing for one of the most unique preparations in the NFL

"It is hard to simulate," Pagano says of a running game that also includes last year's Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. "Especially the speed of the game, the pace they are going and the execution you see from your (scout) team.

"Somebody has to have the dive, somebody has to have the quarterback and they always have a pitch element. It may not always be in the backfield, the third element to it, but it is a guy running to the flat. If Mariota fakes the handoff, you take the dive. He pulls the ball and he's on the perimeter. Then you have him taken away and a guy in a bubble or a tight end out in the flat that he dumps it to so there are a lot of options there. You have to be sound, discipline and on the same page from a call standpoint. You have to put the fire out early. If you don't put the fire out early on that stuff it can become a real problem for you."

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