Last week, I wrote a film room piece on how dominant the Colts’ run game was late last season and how they need to carry that over to the start of this season to help new quarterback Jacoby Brissett. After a slow start in the first half, the Colts returned to that late season dominance as they rushed 33 times for 203 yards in the game against the Chargers.
How did the Colts dominate one of the better defensive fronts in football? In today’s film room, we will be looking at just how effective the offensive line was in this matchup, as well as looking at the strong play of running back Marlon Mack and how this could be the beginning of a dominant season for him.
The two best run blockers in this game for the Colts were easily guard Quenton Nelson and tight end Jack Doyle. On this play, the two show exactly how dominant they were. Doyle motions out wide at the start of the play and is tasked with reaching the safety on the boundary. He is able to reach the safety easily and control the block on the outside of the run. Nelson pulls around the outside off the backside of Anthony Castonzo into the open lane. He helps Castonzo control his block before engaging the late reading linebacker in the hole.
Mack shows great patience as this play develops in front of him and plants his foot in the ground behind Nelson to gain extra yards. Great design with good patience from Mack, and two very good lead blocks from Doyle and Nelson to spring the big play.
Again, the Colts decide to lean on their two best run blockers as the lead players on this play. Nelson and Doyle pull across the formation on this run as Braden Smith and Mark Glowinski double team the inside defensive tackle. The idea behind this play is for Smith to leave the edge defender unblocked and help Glowinski gain leverage and drive back that interior of the defense. Then Doyle and/or Nelson has to be quick enough to get to the unblocked edge defender in time to create the hole. Nelson gets just enough of that edge player to get Mack through the hole.
Smith also does a great job of coming off the double team and reaching the linebacker on this play. This allows Mack to read that block and cut back inside for extra yards. Great read by Mack and all-around great execution by the offensive line on this wham play.
The highlight play of the game started with excellent interior blocking and finished with great balance and explosion from Mack. This is a simple stretch play where the line is working horizontally to create a hole for the back. First player to notice, though, is Ryan Kelly as he drives the nose tackle from his center position all the way outside the tackle box and out of the play. Next, Glowinski and Nelson do a great job of climbing to the second level and neutralizing the linebackers from the play.
From there, it's all Mack. He explodes through the hole and gets up field untouched. He is able to shed a few arm tackles and stay on his feet as he scores the long touchdown. Great explosion by Mack, but this play is made by the picture perfect blocking up front.
Another run that is nearly broken big due to great interior offensive line play. Kelly wins his block up front and is able to turn and navigate his defender out of the play. Glowinski climbs to the second level and takes out his defender. The last block that would have sprung a big play was Nelson on his linebacker as he whiffs on the block in space. Regardless, the interior o-line won this rep as Mack got positive yards on the play.
Mack’s confidence and strength as a runner here were a bit eye catching. I love the jump cuts in the hole as they remind me a lot of David Johnson for the Cardinals early in his career. He reads his blocks perfectly and maximizes the amount of yards he could gain on the play.
This play is nothing special schematically, but it showcases how talented this team is at run blocking. The call is a simple outside sweep, with the line moving downhill to create space for Mack. The highlight is Jack Doyle on the right side of the screen as he chips Melvin Ingram into the block of Castonzo before driving former Pro Bowl linebacker Thomas Davis out of the play. The other linemen deserve praise for this run as well. Nelson, Castonzo, and Kelly do a great job of getting in front of the play and even wide receiver Devin Funchess locks down the outside with a great block.
Mack showed off excellent patience on this run. He didn’t get impatient and dive forward as he felt the defense closing in. He let the play develop, worked down the sideline, and then shot up field when he got to the edge. Great run on this play.
This next play isn’t the most productive, but I love showcasing the wham blocks. Doyle, yet again, is the lead blocker on this wham play on a critical third down late in the game. He comes across the formation and quickly gets in front of the backside defender to take him out of the play. Kelly, Castonzo, and Nelson all get a good drive up the middle as well to allow Mack to get the big first down as time was winding down.
Another simple outside sweep play that nearly went for a big gain. Doyle (surprise!) is out in front of the play as he drives Thomas Davis (yet again) all the way to the boundary and out of the play. Nelson does a great job inside of pivoting his hips and shielding his defender from being able to get to the outside. Wide receiver Zach Pascal also does an outstanding job of locking down the outside with a great block on the corner. The one block that could have sprung this run, though, is if Castonzo could have held Ingram a bit longer.
Mack does another great job on this sweep, getting outside, reading his blocks, and cutting up field at the best time for the run. The patience that he showed in this game was probably the best of his career.
The last play we are going to look at is not the flashiest, but perhaps the most important. Down two points with 30 seconds left, the Colts needed this two point conversion to tie the game up. They decide to rely on their confident running back and dominant offensive line to get the job done. Doyle locks down Joey Bosa on the backside as the interior offensive line powers forward to the endzone. Mack is able to run right off the backside of his best blockers for the conversion. Again, nothing flashy, but a powerful play to complete the major comback and force overtime.
The Colts started slowly on the ground in this game, but came to life late in the game. Marlon Mack had the best game of his career, and the Colts’ offensive line continued their dominance from last season. Dating back to week 15 last year, including this game and the playoffs, Mack has 122 carries for 660 yards and 6 touchdowns in his last six games played.
The Colts offensive line and Marlon Mack are on an absolute tear right now and I don’t see it ending anytime soon. They are a physical, athletic group up front with a confident and explosive runner behind them. This team should be able to carry this hot streak on the ground over to week two against the Titans.