|Colts ground game grinds to halt|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 15 September 2008 10:27|
Sure, it can rely on Peyton Manning and his Pro Bowl receivers to produce big numbers and improbable comebacks. But if the Colts intend to win another Super Bowl, they know it takes more than Manning's trusty right arm.
They must begin running the ball effectively.
``It's easy for everybody to get frustrated,'' Dominic Rhodes said. ``We've just got to be patient.''
Patience is already wearing thin in a city that has been spoiled by the Colts' traditionally high-scoring, balanced offense.
This season, that's not been the case.
Indy has not scored 20 points in either of its first two games, and the running game has essentially been grounded.
Pro Bowler Joseph Addai has 27 carries for 64 yards in two games, or 2.4 yards per carry. Minnesota's Adrian Peterson ran for nearly twice that (118) in the first half Sunday.
Thirty-five players, including backups Jerious Norwood of Atlanta, Warrick Dunn of Tampa Bay and LenDale White of Tennessee, actually have more yards rushing than the Colts have produced as a team (78).
Indy's longest run of the season went for 13 yards, and the most memorable rushing plays have been Addai's 1-yard TD plunge Sunday, which withstood a replay challenge, and Rhodes' strong run on the ensuing 2-point conversion to tie the score at 15.
This is not what the Colts expect. Since Marshall Faulk arrived in 1994, four runners have combined for 12 1,000-yard seasons. Making it to No. 13 will take some major work.
Clearly, the Colts are adjusting to a rebuilt offensive line.
``We've got some new guys in there, and I guess they're young and that happens sometimes when you've got young guys in there,'' Rhodes said. ``Yesterday, I think, was a good test for them because it showed them what we have to do.''
Injuries have completely changed how the Colts look and, to some extent, how they've played.
Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday hasn't been in a game since hurting a knee ligament Aug. 24. Starting left guard Ryan Lilja remains on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing offseason knee surgery. Rookie Mike Pollak, a second-round draft choice expected to start at right guard after Jake Scott left in free agency, has been out since Aug. 24 with his own knee injury. And left tackle Tony Ugoh left Sunday's game early with a groin injury.
Tight end Dallas Clark (knee) also missed the Minnesota game.
utting rookie Jamey Richard at center, projected backup Dan Federkeil at right guard, and the versatile Charlie Johnson at left guard before moving him to left tackle when Ugoh went down. Rookie Steve Justice is now filling in at left guard and may have to play again this week, and rookie tight end Tom Santi occasionally found himself blocking Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, the 2007 NFL sacks leader.
Coach Tony Dungy did not give any updates Monday on the severity of the Colts' newest injuries: Ugoh's groin and Bob Sanders' ankle.
Should Clark and Saturday return to the lineup this weekend against Jacksonville, something Dungy described as a possibility, it would help.
Yet Dungy insists the replacements have played well amid the continuing struggles.
``Whether we run or throw, we've got to execute,'' he said Monday. ``But we've got to run it better to make our play-action passes go.''
Defenses have taken advantage by crowding the line of scrimmage and putting more pressure on Manning, who looked more like himself over the final 19 minutes against the Vikings.
He's thrown 91 passes this season, his highest total in back-to-back games since attempting 99 against San Francisco and Baltimore in 2001. That also happens to be the last time Indy had a losing record, making it obvious the Colts need some semblance of a running game.
``For the first time since I can remember, it seems like they (defenses) are saying beat us with Peyton and Marvin (Harrison),'' Rhodes said. ``Maybe it's because he missed training camp and hasn't played a lot. But I think the end of that (Minnesota) game will be in a lot people's minds going forward.''
Dungy and the Colts can only hope that's the case.
If Manning continues to make big plays, it will back defenses off the line and create more holes for Addai and Rhodes.
And perhaps then, the Colts will finally have their offense running at full throttle.
``I'm really not that concerned about the running game,'' Dungy said. ``We need to be sharp and execute well. We'll be fine.''