INDIANAPOLIS—On paper, a 179-yard rushing effort for the Colts seemed like a stiff challenge considering the circumstances.
The Colts were about to head into Candlestick Park where the 49ers defense is lethal against the run. Since 2011, the 49ers defense has led the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed per game.
Sunday's game was the first the Colts would be playing without three offensive starters, all who had been lost for the season in the course of six days.
New running back Trent Richardson was being asked to learn a new offensive playbook after just two days of practice.
Good thing games aren't played on paper.
From Richardson's first touch to Ahmad Bradshaw's "ground and pound" fourth quarter, the Colts carried the ball 39 times for 179 yards in earning a 27-7 road victory over the defending NFC Champions.
"It was a heavyweight fight and we just found a way to pull away at the end," Head Coach Chuck Pagano told Colts radio following the 2013 road debut.
"It was a great, great team win. All three phases worked in unison today and complimented each other. We ground and pounded. Yards were hard to come on both sides and the offensive line and what they did was huge."
Starting center Samson Satele did not start so normal right guard Mike McGlynn slid to his left on Sunday.
To the left of McGlynn was rookie Hugh Thornton making his first NFL start.
At the other guard position was Jeff Linkenbach, starting against one of the league's best defenses, one week after being inactive against the Dolphins.
Just another chapter of "Next Man Up".
"The backbone of the team has been that way," quarterback Andrew Luck said after the game. "Guys did a heck of a job just coming and playing football."
Richardson made his Colts debut on the team's first possession and wasted no time making an impact.
He took his first carry into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown to get the Colts on the board after an impressive opening drive.
"Trent Richardson being here for a Thursday and a Friday practice then he's playing in a game and scoring a touchdown, You kidding me?" Luck said after the game.
In the second half, with the Colts needing another score to put the game out of reach it was time for another running back to seal the victory.
Bradshaw, who finished the game with 95 yards on 19 carries, had a whirlwind week himself following Vick Ballard's injury to Richardson's arrival.
The seven-year NFL veteran has talked about the "chip" on his shoulder that he's playing with thanks to the teams who bypassed on him during free agency.
That's just fine with the Colts as Bradshaw showed Sunday why his coaches rave about his "angry, downhill" running style.
With the Colts leading 13-7 and the fourth quarter clock ticking under 10 minutes, Bradshaw ripped off three straight runs that helped Indianapolis win their fifth road game in their last seven chances.
Runs of seven, 27 and eight yards pushed the Colts from the 49ers 47-yard line down to the five-yard line.
Two plays later it was Luck on a six-yard bootleg touchdown run that gave the Colts a 20-7 lead with 4:13 remaining.
The bootleg call worked flawlessly and Luck pointed to the hard-nosed running of Bradshaw that allowed him to go untouched into the end zone.
"They were overplaying the run. They didn't have contain out there and I was fortunate that they crashed," Luck said of the six-yard touchdown run.
"Guys were running so hard that they had to expect (a run) and I managed to get into the end zone."