INDIANAPOLIS –In the Colts' four-game winning streak, the team has rushed very well on the ground.
Indianapolis had 148 yards on 37 rushes in a 17-13 win over Cleveland on October 21, then the best ground day of the year for the Colts.
A 19-13 overtime win at Tennessee saw the Colts produce 171 yards on 34 attempts, with the game-winning drive being predominantly accomplished on the ground.
In last week's 27-10 win at Jacksonville, the Colts popped for 138 yards on the ground, rushing 37 times in winning a key divisional game.
Those three games saw the Colts average 4.0, 5.0 and 3.7 yards per attempt, healthy enough averages in the league.
At halftime against Miami on November 4, Indianapolis had 22 yards on 11 rushes and trailed, 17-13. The Colts won the game, 23-20, making a defensive stop near midfield with 1:37 to go. It was what happened two plays later that pleased interim head coach Bruce Arians.
On third-and-seven from his 44-yard line with 46 seconds left, running back Vick Ballard churned 19 yards to end the game. The ability to run the ball when needed is what Arians, and any other NFL coach seeks.
The Colts have won six times in nine tries this year and in five of those games, the team ran more than 30 times. While that may be a barometer for some, Arians is more interested in results than numbers.
"I think any time that you have the lead, that's going to happen," said Arians on if there is a parallel between the wins and rushing more than 30 times in those games. "If you're coming up from behind, you can still win it with 20 runs.
"I don't ever put a correlation on run numbers to wins. The game dictates whether you have a lead in the fourth quarter or you have a lead early in other games when we established the run and found a soft spot.
"I never go into a game thinking, 'If we run it 30 times, we'll win.' It just happens. I know that a lot of people put a lot of stock into it, but I'm not one of them."
Five of the team's seven rushing scores have come during the winning streak. Quarterback Andrew Luck has been a big contributor with two rushing touchdowns against Cleveland and Jacksonville. None was longer than five yards, but each contributed to winning.
His scores against the Browns provided an eight-point halftime lead, and last week's tallies helped the Colts jump to a 17-0 first-half lead.
In the 138 yards at Jacksonville, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton had 30 yards on two reverses. Running backs Vick Ballard (12-48), Donald Brown (14-42) and Delone Carter (2-7) contributed as Indianapolis had 11 first downs via the run.
Seven conversions came in a big first half, including two long bursts (11, 19 yards) on first-and-10. Carter converted two third-and-two situations in the game, while Ballard was successful on second-and-three and second-and-five chances. Brown converted a second-and-four as well.
It was Carter at Tennessee who also produced when needed. On fourth-and-one from the Titans' eight-yard line with 4:11 to go, he gained seven yards before scoring on the next play. His touchdown tied the game with 3:24 to go, and the team won on the first possession of overtime.
"I think it's huge," said Arians of producing on the ground. "The ability to run and to be able to run the ball on more than third-and-two and be competent in it, that's something I don't have a big history in. It's very gratifying."
Guard Mike McGlynn talked after the Tennessee game about offensive linemen loving the dedication to the running game because it allows them to be aggressors. This week, tackle Anthony Castonzo said the short-yardage success the club has had recently opens up the offense.
"That's real nice because if a defense doesn't know if it's going to be a pass on third-and-four or five, it really opens up a lot of stuff," said Castonzo. "It kind of makes us a bit of a two-headed monster. When you can run the ball, it's extremely positive to do it.
"We really want to keep that edge, keep that rolling and be able to do it every game. If we do, we'll be able to continue to win games."