Dungy not concerned with Colts' sluggish ground game Print
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Wednesday, 19 December 2007 11:42
NFL Headline News

 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Joseph Addai keeps chugging along.
The running back keeps breaking tackles, using nifty spin moves to elude defenders and has become a more integral receiver in the Colts' offense with Marvin Harrison out. He's done everything Indianapolis could ask.
But over the last six weeks, Addai also has become a symbol of something else: the Colts' plodding ground game.
``Obviously, we need to run better and from my own perspective, I want to see our numbers get better,'' three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday said Wednesday. ``I don't care about total yards, but I want to see our average per carry up.''
Saturday has reason to fret, given the Colts' troubling splits.
During the first eight games, the Colts (12-2) averaged 137.7 yards rushing per game and 4.4 yards per carry. Since then, the ground game dried up. The Colts have averaged just 73.2 yards per game and 2.9 per carry over the last six weeks, winning three times by a touchdown or less.
Sure, there are explanations.
The Colts have run the ball roughly six fewer times per game.
At times, Addai also has contended with a makeshift line missing both starting tackles and at one point having moved starting guard Jake Scott over to tackle.
They have faced two of the league's most stout run defenses in Jacksonville and Baltimore this month, and, yes, opponents may think now is the time to force Peyton Manning into more throws because his favorite target, Harrison, is out with a left knee injury.
The problem is the Colts expect more productivity.
``We've got to get back to being more balanced, running it on first down more effectively,'' said Manning, one of five Colts headed to the Pro Bowl. ``Running it effectively helps you drop back to pass and run play action, and we need to do that.''
Some disconcerting trends also stand out.
Against some of the league's worst run defenses, notably Kansas City and Oakland, the Colts struggled. The Chiefs, now ranked 26th against the run, limited Indianapolis to 66 yards on 27 carries last month, and on Sunday, Oakland, which has the league's second-worst run defense, held the Colts to 58 yards on 20 carries.
Coach Tony Dungy isn't panicking.
``We felt like if they (the Raiders) played their style of ball there would be a lot of throws, and there were,'' Dungy said. ``When we had to run, we did it. The last drive we had a couple of good runs, and we had two good runs to close out the game. But it wasn't the type of game that we thought we were going to run many times.''
The Colts need more than a few good runs if they're going to defend the Super Bowl title. And it's not necessarily Addai's fault, whose overall numbers were good enough to earn his first Pro Bowl trip.
He's the third Colts player to open his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, averages a respectable 4.1 yards per carry, has scored 11 touchdowns and has emerged as a solid receiver with 39 receptions and three more TDs.
But when the Colts let Dominic Rhodes go in free agency, there were concerns Addai could wear down. The former high school quarterback was never a feature back at LSU and split carries last year with Rhodes, waiting until the wild-card game against Kansas City to make his first start.
The Colts have been cautious about using Addai too much. His touches are up slightly over his rookie pace. Last year, Addai had 226 carries and 40 receptions; this year he's had 290 touches with two games remaining.
Dungy doesn't see any indication Addai needs a break. When asked whether Addai was wearing down, Dungy said: ``Not at all, not at all.''
Yet during Bill Polian's weekly radio show Monday night, the team president acknowledged Addai could be one of the players who sees limited work Sunday against Houston; the Colts have wrapped up the AFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
``Will Peyton play the whole time? I'd guess not, but he'll play,'' Polian said. ``Will Joe play the whole time? I'd guess not, but we'll see.''
The bigger question is what the Colts must do to get back on track.
While Dungy believes things will eventually work out, Saturday is more focused on making sure the offensive line plays better before postseason play begins.
``I think if you look at it, there's not been a lot of continuity fitting into one game,'' he said. ``Joe's got to get his reads off of us, so we've got to work on that the next couple of weeks.''
 

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