INDIANAPOLIS –Longtime Colts fans have gotten an eyeful over the last two games.
A team that scaled great heights for a decade with one of the game's most prolific passing attacks and that drafted quarterback Andrew Luck first overall has been successful lately with a time-honored tactic.
The Colts rushed for 148 and 171 yards in wins over Cleveland and Tennessee to push past the .500 mark for the first time since 2010, the last season the club's full-fledged air attack was in tip-top operation.
As the 4-3 Colts face 4-3 Miami on Sunday, Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians looks for the club to augment the passing game again with another solid effort on the ground. As the play-caller, Arians dialed up six straight rushes in overtime last week in the victory over the Titans, and he wants the team to be able to run the ball whenever it wants to do so.
"(You want) positive yardage when you want to run the football," said Arians. "That helps your play-action game. We've been able to get into big packages, little packages and have some success the last couple weeks, which has given us some shots at chunks down the field."
Four times this season the Colts have topped 30 rushing attempts in a game. All four games have resulted in victories. Thirty rushes against Minnesota netted 84 yards and the same number against Green Bay produced 119 yards. The club rushed 37 times in the 17-13 victory over Cleveland and 34 times last week.
While not caught up in the raw numbers, those numbers do influence the offense. Only once in four times this season (Green Bay) has the team won when attempting more than 40 passes. The rushing proficiency opens up the passing attack, and it helps the team across the board.
"It means so much to the offense, but it means so much to the defense sitting on the sidelines," said Luck. "First downs, the clock is running, you get your rest. It's opening up play-action, opening up the movement stuff. The last screen touchdown (at Tennessee) probably had a lot to do that we were running the ball effectively. It's helpful on so many levels."
The Colts were strengthened last week at Tennessee with the return of Donald Brown. Brown injured a knee late in the Green Bay win, and rookie Vick Ballard has started the last three games.
Brown was able to return quickly from his injury, and he gained 80 yards at Tennessee, including 39 on the drive before Ballard's game-deciding touchdown.
Four rushers, including Luck, accounted for the rushing total, and Brown is comfortable with the varied attack the club has that includes second-year pro Delone Carter.
"Yeah, for sure," said Brown when asked if he were fine with the run mix. "Even with Delone (Carter), any of the running backs we have, anybody is capable of stepping up there and making a difference. The more weapons we have, the more it helps the team and offense.
"Every running back has his own little thing that he does. That makes us more dangerous. The more weapons (we have), the better."
Brown was the club's top draft pick in 2009. He has led the Colts in rushing for the past two seasons, setting a seasonal-best with 645 yards in 2011. While he had a breakout game last year against Tennessee with 161 yards and a franchise record-tying long rush of 80 yards, this year has been different for Brown.
The Colts have put together a bit of a different style of offense from years past, including an offensive line where eight of nine members stand taller than 6-1 and weigh more than 300 pounds.
With that, Brown feels a good fit as Indianapolis shoots for its first three-game winning streak since 2010.
"The offensive line is doing a great job, just continued preparation, keep working hard," said Brown. "The run game, sometimes you are going to get stuffed for zero or one yard, but you have to stay with it, stay confident. Eventually that one-yard run is going to turn into a 20-yard run.
"(We're) just getting downhill, especially with the big offensive line that we have, just getting downhill rather than running laterally."
Arians said this week the mix the club has at running back is "a great problem to have." He lauded the efforts of Ballard, who last Sunday gained 55 rushing yards along with his 16-yard scoring reception, and said the backs will share the duties against Miami on Sunday.
The Colts will be facing a Miami defense that is allowing 82.0 yards per game, the league's third-best total. Opposing rushers have averaged 3.5 yards per attempt, the league's second-lowest mark.
"Defensively, they're number one on third downs, number two in the red zone, number five in scoring defense. Those are great situational football statistics," said Arians. "They're very good against the run. They're going to present a great challenge."
Brown will be a part of the club's efforts to get a fifth victory and maintain a competitive pace in a tight AFC field. Arians is not shy about using him. Brown was a back Arians, then in Pittsburgh, liked when Indianapolis spent its top pick on the Connecticut rusher.
"I liked Donald coming out," said Arians. "I thought he was a hard downhill runner with great speed. He has shown flashes of that speed for us, and I love speed.
"He is more than a professional. He's a top notch pro. He's more than prepared every week. He prepares the young guys. He's a great leader in his room. He's an explosive player, and you can't have enough of those."