INDIANAPOLIS –The last time the Colts left Jacksonville, it was a long painful walk into an uncertain future.
Eleven months later, the Colts exited EverBank Field 27-10 victors over the Jaguars and with a purpose for the rest of the season.
The Colts have won four straight games and though the passing exploits of quarterback Andrew Luck have garnered attention, a dedication to the rushing game is obvious.
"I think it's great," said guard Joe Reitz. "We've been running the ball and Coach Arians has been calling the run. We've been continuing to improve weekly as a line. We really had guys step up this week like A.Q. Shipley. Link (Jeff Linkenbach) came in and did a great job. It's always great to get a road win. We'll continue to build on this win."
Indianapolis has posted three of its highest ground totals on the year during the four-game winning streak. Indianapolis rushed for 148 yards in a 17-13 win over Cleveland, then topped it with a season-high 171 yards in a 19-13 overtime win at Tennessee.
The game-winning overtime drive came largely on the ground, with Donald Brown toting the ball six straight times for 39 yards before Luck hit rookie Vick Ballard on the deciding 16-yard pass play.
Indianapolis rushed for 97 yards against Miami two weeks ago. The total was reached after getting only 22 yards in the first half, and Ballard iced the game with a churning 19-yard burst.
Last night, the club ran for 138 yards on 37 attempts, doing so with a line that had A.Q. Shipley and Jeff Linkenbach starting at center and right tackle for regulars Samson Satele and Winston Justice.
New faces, no problem.
"That's one think we talk about as a line," said Reitz. "We've had guys miss with injuries. It's always, 'Next Man Up,' and we always keep our standards high. We've had different guys playing all year, but we always try to be on the same page. I thought we had really good communication throughout the game. It helped us in the run game."
The dedication to the ground game is evident. In the six victories to date, only once (26, Miami) did Indianapolis not rush the ball more than 30 times. It did so with 30 on the nose against Minnesota and Green Bay. Indianapolis carried the ball 37 times against Cleveland and 34 at Tennessee. The 138 yards at Jacksonville came on 37 attempts.
This is the first time since 2007 the club has rushed the ball 30 or more times in five different games. It did so six times in 2007.
The last scoring drive at Jacksonville featured seven runs and one pass. The team milked almost six minutes from the clock, draining any comeback bid and ensuring a fun walk to the team buses.
"It was a good feeling to run the ball that many times on the drive, go down the field and put points on the board," said Reitz. "We wanted to get seven points there, but the fact we ran the ball and chewed up the clock, that was big."
Colts linemen have spoken positively in recent weeks about the solid effort the coaches are putting into the run game. Linemen enjoy the chance of setting the tone in the attack, and having two strong road performances is a gauge of growth.
Another measure is putting together consecutive road wins after opening with two bitter road losses. Reitz like what he sees.
"It shows our resiliency," said Reitz of victories at Tennessee and Jacksonville. "We've been that way all year. We lost to Jacksonville in Indy and we came down here and we (won). It was a great win. The defense played outstanding. We were able to run the ball. Any time you can call that many runs in a game, it's big. It makes you the aggressor, and we keep the defense off balance."