CARSON, Calif. — The 2018 season was a year full of new career bests for Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack. On Sunday, in the team's first game of the 2019 regular season, he continued to roll by putting in the biggest rushing performance of his career in the Colts’ 30-24 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Colts struggled with momentum in the first half of Sunday’s game, but once they got Mack and the run game going, it jump-started the whole team, which turned in a furious comeback effort to force overtime late in the fourth quarter. It was Mack that sparked the team with a career-long 63-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter to bring it to a one-score game, and it was Mack that once again punched in the two-point try to tie the game at 24 and force overtime.
By game's end, Mack had ran for a career-best 174 yards, the 11th-most rushing yards in a single game in franchise history, and the most since Edgerrin James rushed for 204 yards against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 21, 2004
"We just felt good about our run game plan going in," head coach Frank Reich said. "I give the offensive coaching staff a lot of credit. They did a good job game-planning the run, and the guys up front just executed. I remember one time in the game talking to Q (Quenton Nelson) — I usually always get a parameter on Q — I can't remember if it was in the second quarter or the beginning of the third quarter, I said, 'How's it going up there?' And he said, 'Yeah, just keep callin' 'em. Just keep callin' 'em,' so that's what we like to do."
Once down by 15 points, the Colts came back and were able to tie the game and send it to overtime, and the team's 203 rushing yards for an integral part of the comeback. To Reich, the key was patience, as Indy went into halftime with just 30 rushing yards on 11 carries.
Though the Colts didn't get the run game going until the second half, Reich said they anticipated that being the case.
"That was part of the plan," Reich said. "We talked about this as an offense. This team, we wanted to come out and dink-and-dunk a little bit early, short control pass game. A lot of the analytics said that this team in the first quarter was pretty good against the rush, especially in the first drive or two. They knew we wanted to run the football. They were crowding the box, so we just said, 'Hey, we're gonna be patient with the run game,' even when we got behind, and I think that helped us out to get us back in."
Mack's latest performance is one in a string of eye-popping games that Colts fans have now grown accustomed to seeing from him after the Colts struggled to consistently produce those types of games for about a decade beforehand.
In his first year as a full-time starter in 2018, Mack had four 100-yard games in the regular season as well as one in the Divisional Round of the playoffs against the Houston Texans, who hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher up to that point.
With Mack's total, as well as 29 rushing yards combined from Nyheim Hines, Jacoby Brissett and Parris Campbell, Sunday's game against the Chargers was the Colts' fourth 200-yard rushing game since 2018.
During the offseason, Reich said he wanted the Colts to be a top-five rushing team on the season, and they're off to a great start as they currently sit at No. 2 as of the end of their game behind only the Baltimore Ravens and their 265 rushing yards in their 59-10 blowout win over the Miami Dolphins.
"We did a lot of good things to build off of. We ran the ball for a lot of yards," Brissett said after the game. "When you see that in Week 1, teams in Week 15 have to respect what we did in Week 1. So things like that go unnoticed now, but long term they know stuff about you."