For three weeks now, we've seen the Colts run the football effectively. The yardage might not be gaudy, and the highlight reel might not seem spectacular, but since the bye week the Colts have worked to improve their running game during key moments of a game; aka, the 4th quarter.
The last three games, Colts running backs have rushed for 284 yards on 62 attempts for 4.5 yards per carry and scoring 3 rushing TDs along the way. Much of this production has been done without rookie dynamo Donald Brown, who was injured in the St. Louis Rams game and has been out since with a shoulder bruise. Brown had 58 yards on two rushes in the Rams game, and if you remove his production from equation the team's yards per carry drop to 3.8. However, also dragging down the yards per carry stat is Chad Simpson, who has rushed 3 times for only 2 yards in the last 2 games.
This means that the bulk of the running back workload these last three weeks has gone to the most unlikely divisive figure I've ever seen in three-plus years of blogging for Stampede Blue: Joseph Addai.
I'm just going to come out and say it: Joseph Addai has played very good football these last three games, and I challenging anyone to try and prove me wrong on that. Look at his performance yesterday and you see the mark of an efficient, tough player who knows when to shine at the right time.
42 of Addai's 63 yards rushing came in the fourth quarter against the Texans. Addai also scored a rushing TD in the fourth to re-take the lead for good. In two games, Addai has throw a game-winning TD and rushed for a game-winning TD. That's clutch!
In two games, Addai has run for 125 yards, caught 7 passes for 53 yards, and scored three TDs in three different ways (passing, catching, and rushing). Again, he's done all this without Donald Brown to ease the pressure, and with virtually no help from reserve back Chad Simspon.
Also, factor in that Addai is usually in on all passing downs, blocking for a no-huddle attack that has thrown the ball 98 times in two games. And in those 98 drop backs, I don't recall a single play where Manning was sacked because of a blown block by Addai.
When the pressure is on, and when injuries necessitate a player to step up and increase his work load, Joseph Addai is one the biggest clutch players this Colts team has. For some reason, people here still hate on the guy. I really feel those people do not appreciate good play when they see it.
I'm not ready to declare "YAY!, We have a running game!" just yet. But for two weeks now, against two seemingly good opponents, the Colts have run the ball well in the fourth quarter; and those runs have been instrumental in the Colts winning two very close games. I will say that, since the bye week, the Colts ground game has gotten better. Consider that in the 5 games prior to the bye week, the Colts had run for only 373 yards on 109 carries, averaging 3.4 a carry.
We're seeing improvement, and when Brown returns we should see even more improvement. A more consistent ground game will help this offense work out its recent redzone frustrations, and will give the Colts yet another dimension to go with their potent offense, elite defense, and strong special teams.