Colts' Ground Game Continues to Make Strides in Recent Weeks
INDIANAPOLIS – The passing offense continues to lead the league, but the Indianapolis Colts' ground game has experienced significant improvements over the last few weeks.
While Indianapolis (10-0) is best known for its passing attack, the Colts have also benefited from a strong rushing attack over the last four games. Not only have the Colts been able to run the ball with success, but the team's ground game quickly is becoming an efficient tool the team's offense can consistently utilize.
Look no further than starting running back Joseph Addai, who had a stellar game last Sunday in the Colts' 17-15 victory. The fifth-year veteran carried the ball 19 times for a season-high 74 yards, including a five-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.
Most impressive of all, Addai had one of his best games against a ferocious Baltimore rush defense, ranked fifth in the NFL.
"We were able to get some creases and get some runs in," Addai said. "I think (our offense is) starting to kind of balance out."
Colts President Bill Polian said the Colts' offensive line is not designed to run the ball on every down. But when the team has needed Addai most this season, the running back has responded, and that is what matters, Polian said.
"When there has been room, he has made big plays. And when there hasn't been room, he has put those pads down and gained four and five yards," Polian said. "(Our running game) has been fine. If we run this way for the rest of the season, we're going to be perfectly okay."
Addai scored his sixth rushing touchdown in seven games on Sunday and his eighth overall in the Colts' last seven. On Monday, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell attributed the success to the fact that Addai finally has a clean bill of health.
"Physically, he feels good," Caldwell said. "He just appears to be getting stronger as the game goes on. He gives us some significant contribution in the run and the pass game. Particularly when he gets down in the red zone, he's been a real force in that area."
The Colts coach said there is a noticeable improvement in the way Addai has run this season and added the veteran's performance also has been boosted by rookie running back Donald Brown and second-year back Chad Simpson.
"We have had some young guys to help him and take some of the load off and give him a breather," Caldwell said. "We certainly have noticed that he's been pretty consistent week-in and week-out."
Addai also holds the lone distinction of being the only NFL player this season to have thrown, rushed and caught a touchdown. He is the first Colt to pull off the feat since Lenny Moore in 1959.
Addai has reached the end zone 10 times this season, third in the NFL, but it has been the running back's work when the Colts needed him most that has been particularly impressive this year.
On third downs, Addai is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and appears to be one of those rare type of running backs that gets stronger as the game goes on, according to his coach.
In the first half of games, Addai is averaging 3.2 yards per carry this season. In the second half, Addai's average jumps to 4.1 per carry.
On Sunday, the Colts relied heavily on the pass in the fourth quarter, but in the two games before – which Polian described as Addai's best games "in a long, long time" – the Colts' starting running back played significant roles in the comeback victories.
Against New England, Addai averaged 6.5 yards per carry in the fourth quarter and rushed four yards for a touchdown with 2:23 seconds left to pull the Colts within a touchdown of the Patriots.
And when playing Houston the week before, Addai carried the ball seven times for 48 yards (6.9 yards per carry) against the Texans, including the game-winning touchdown with more than seven minutes remaining.
"He runs downhill hill pretty well during that time of the ballgame," Caldwell. "He gets stronger as the game goes on. There are always a lot of factors involved in that."
Caldwell said he is not completely sure why players like Addai get stronger, and in some cases better, as the game goes on. But he is aware of the importance of the fourth quarter and the value in finishing a game strongly.
"I know we keep getting better," the Colts coach said of the team's rushing attack. "And that's a sign of a team that is headed in the right direction."
The Colts also announced today the re-signing of sixth-year veteran DE-Josh Thomas. The club also waived second-year RB-Mike Hart.
Thomas has appeared in one game with the Colts in 2009, recording two tackles against Houston November 6. Thomas also spent 2004-08 with the club after initially signing as a free agent out of Syracuse.
Hart appeared in four games with the Colts in 2009, playing primarily on special teams.