INDIANAPOLIS — "Run the damn ball."
It's the Indianapolis Colts' motto on offense, and they did just that in a big-time, 33-13 victory over the AFC South-rival Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
When all was said and done, the Colts had run the ball 36 times for 264 yards — an average of 7.3 yards per carry — which was the 12th-highest total in team history and their most since 2004.
"Yeah, I mean, I don't think you ever expect to run for that many yards in an NFL game, just 'cause defenses are too good," Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters after the game. "And that defense is — I've got so much respect for that defense; I'm just tellin' you. I was telling Nick (Sirianni), I got over here this morning, I said, 'Man, I know we're gonna run the ball, we're gonna call runs, we're gonna stay committed to it, our guys have had a great week of practice, but this is a good defensive front.' So, again, I can't give our players enough credit for how well they played."
Starting running back Marlon Mack was off to a red-hot start to the day, racking up 109 yards on 14 carries (7.8. avg.) before exiting the game in the third quarter with a hand injury. It was the seventh 100-yard rushing game of Mack's career, tying him with Alan Ameche for the sixth-most such games in franchise history.
With Mack's premature exit and his early-down backup, Jordan Wilkins, inactive on Sunday due to an ankle injury, the Colts called on Jonathan Williams — normally fourth on the depth chart — to be their primary tailback for the remainder of the ballgame. The offense didn't miss a beat, with Williams churning his way to a career day with 13 carries for 116 yards, giving the Colts two 100-yard runners in the same game for the first time since Randy McMillan (112) and Albert Bentley (100) did it in 1985.
It was just the fourth such rushing performance in team history.
"I'm excited to see Marlon and J-Will do it, and I'm even more excited for this big boys up front," said running back Nyheim Hines, who had his own seven-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. "Sometimes when the run's not working, they're (offensive line) like, 'Run the damn ball.' So, I'm really excited about it. I'm sure we'll all be wearing our 'Run The Damn Ball' hats and shirts tomorrow during walkthrough, so I'm excited for them."
The Colts' performance on the ground was one that had every position group praising each other. For the running backs, it was because of the line. For the line, it was their runners staying patient and hitting the holes.
"They're 100 percent the reason why we were able to do that," Williams said of the line. "Week in and week out those guys prepare, those guys are ready, they're focused. They're ready to play every week. It's a joy to run behind them."
"We kinda got 'em with some misdirection stuff and some downhill runs, but a lot of them were cutbacks. I give a lot of credit to those guys," center Ryan Kelly said about Mack, Williams and Hines. "They've been coached incredibly well to be patient, (and) let those holes develop. They were breaking arm tackles. They (Jacksonville) knew we were gonna run the ball, they were loading the box with the safeties coming down into the box. They just kept after it and being persistent, so a lot of credit to those guys."
With a banged-up receiving corps on Sunday, the Colts really needed the run game to be successful against the Jaguars. It was something they emphasized and worked on all week, and that attention to detail certainly paid off.
"We just felt like we really needed to get the run game back on track," Reich said. "I said something to Quenton (Nelson) earlier in the week; he always has it (a look), but I don't know — I just (thought) I wouldn't want to be in his road this week. He just had something special going on this week, and those guys up front all played great."
The Colts have run the ball well recently and entered the game ranked 10th in the league in rushing, but it had been since their Week 5 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in which they were able to turn in a totally dominant performance on the ground. However, as we saw on Sunday, when the Colts run the ball, they really run the ball.
"I don't know if it was the idea of what we saw (before the game). It was more, from the past, we were able to run the ball against them as well. It was just getting back to the mentality of actually just trusting the offensive line and the running backs and everybody that blocks," right guard Mark Glowinski said. "The whole talk of the whole week was if we we're getting three yards, two yards, we're still gonna go back to it and trust it because those two-, three-yard runs were gonna turn into six, 10, 15, whatever they were, or longer. So that's what the whole motto and thought process was the whole week, just sticking in and trusting the run game."
In the end, Hines summarized the Colts' performance best.
"We ran the damn ball today," he said. "We were firing on all cylinders."