Comfort Level Increasing With Experience, Donald Brown Says
INDIANAPOLIS – If there's a difference, Donald Brown said the reason is simple.
Brown, the Colts' second-year running back, said while he's not sure there has been a dramatic change in his play in recent weeks, if there has been any improvement it stems from reasons perhaps basic and obvious.
He's playing more.
And that playing time is in big situations.
That means Brown is gaining experience, and Brown said in that situation, it's reasonable to expect a measure of improvement.
"I'm just trying to go out there and play ball, and just trying to compete," Brown said Wednesday as the Colts (6-4) prepared to play the San Diego Chargers (5-5) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 8:20 p.m.
"That's the name of the game. The more experience you get, the more comfortable you get out there. You learn from the good and the bad and you move forward."
Brown helped the Colts move forward a bit at critical times this past week.
And in so doing, he made some critical contributions as the Colts rallied from a 31-14 deficit before narrowly losing in New England, 31-28.
Brown, a first-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft from the University of Connecticut, started just one game last season as a rookie. That was the regular-season finale against Buffalo.
As was the case at times last season, when he missed five games with injuries, he dealt with injuries early this season, missing three games and the entire month of October with a hamstring injury.
But in the last four games, with running back Joseph Addai out with a neck injury and reserve running back Mike Hart out three games with an ankle injury, the Colts have needed college football's lone 2,000-yard rusher in 2008 to make a contribution.
Against the Patriots, he did just that.
Brown, who rushed for 81 yards on 23 carries while playing sparingly in the first seven games of the season, rushed for 100 yards on 27 carries in his first two starts this season – a loss at Philadelphia and a victory over Cincinnati.
Against the Patriots, the Colts' running game struggled early, and at halftime, Brown had rushed for seven yards on eight carries. The Colts as a team had rushed for nine yards on 10 carries and they trailed at halftime, 21-14.
"We didn't get anybody blocked in the first half," Colts President Bill Polian said early this week. "To (Offensive Coordinator) Clyde Christensen's credit, we came out in the second half and said, 'We're going to run the ball. We're going to do our best to run the football and even if we get two yards or three yards, we're still running the football, and we're going to get positive yardage.' As you saw, the two yards and three yards became 36 yards and 15 yards when you took the mindset of, 'Hey, we're coming after you.'
Brown in the second half against New England rushed 10 times for 60 yards, and his running and receiving were critical as the Colts rallied from a 31-14 fourth-quarter deficit before a late rally fell three points short.
"You just keep at it," Brown said. "You can't get frustrated. There's going to be adversity through the game. You just stick with it and toward the end of the game we were starting to get some big runs in there."
And while Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said improvement from the overall running game is still needed, the second half against New England showed the area's potential.
"I'm not satisfied," Caldwell said. "I don't think any of us are. When you look at it overall, we still would like to be more consistent in that area. Obviously, if we ran the ball a little bit better, take some pressure off of our quarterback, and I think you saw that a bit towards the end of the second half, we were able to get some runs, get some things generated.
"It just opens things up for you. You aren't depending on having to throw the ball an inordinate number of times. It just makes you more effective overall. I think in that area we still need to improve."
Brown, who finished the game with 68 yards on 17 carries, also caught three passes for 40 yards. It was the second game of his career he has had more than 100 yards total offense. The other was Week 3 of 2009, when he had 40 yards rushing to go with a 72-yard reception against Arizona.
"Donald's done a good job," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. "He's gotten a number of opunities. I think anybody that gets to play consistently is going to feel more comfortable. We're looking for continued improvement out of him and just production out of him.
"We need Donald to be a factor this week, as well (running back Javarris) James."
Brown said that's the goal – continued improvement, increased production – and like Manning, he said it's a goal that should be reached more and more with time.
"You develop a comfort level," Brown said. "That obviously helps. You just learn something new every week, and you try to learn from it – good or bad. You try to build on it the next week.
"I'm a more experienced back and experience obviously helps. The more you can be in there and obviously the more film you watch and the more you're out there practicing helps."