Colts find running game to open division lead
Chuck Pagano was not pleased.
The Indianapolis Colts coach watched his team fall behind by two scores - again - and things looked all too familiar.
''I'm to the point now where we might as well put 14 on the board before we kick the thing off,'' he said. ''And have the guys at least look up there and say, `We're down 14. We better get going.'''
But the Colts (7-3) got back to their power-running ways and it couldn't have come at a better time.
For two straight games, the Colts couldn't find a way to move the ball on the ground, but rushed for 137 yards and rallied in the second half of Thursday's 30-27 win at Tennessee.
It gave the Colts a three-game lead in the AFC South, a sweep of their three division road games and a shot at their first division title of the post-Peyton Manning era.
Indy hasn't looked the same since coming out of the bye week nearly three weeks ago.
The momentum gained from last month's win over Manning and the Denver Broncos seemed to disappear somewhere during the week off.
And the running game did, too.
The Colts played like a different team in the second half against the Titans compared to the loss to St. Louis on Sunday. Indianapolis rushed for just 18 yards. The week before, in a come-from-behind win over the Houston Texans, the Colts ran for 69 yards.
And against Tennessee, Indy ran for just 38 yards in the first half, but broke away for 137 by the end of the night.
''I think just from an execution standpoint you make your adjustments at halftime,'' Pagano said. ''You go in and say, `Ok, here's what they're doing and here's what we have to fix.
''And here's what we have to get done.' The guys did a great job, the coaches did a great job of making the adjustments and the players went out and executed. Again, it wasn't perfect every time, but it worked.''
Quarterback Andrew Luck ran for 31 yards, including a touchdown run of 11 yards in the third quarter to give the Colts a 20-17 lead.
Donald Brown, who finished with 80 yards rushing, put together runs of 6, 17, and 8 yards in a fourth quarter drive capped off with an 11-yard TD run to give the Colts a 30-20 lead.
''To be able to run the football at the end of the game, much like we did in earlier weeks prior, have that touchdown drive and take four or five minutes off the clock and go up 10 points, that was the game,'' Pagano said.
Trent Richardson, the Colts' starting rusher, ran 22 yards against the Titans - his best since he gained 37 yards on the ground against Denver last month.
After being traded to the Colts from Cleveland early in the season, Richardson's best game with the Colts was against Jacksonville in Week 4 - he ran 60 yards in his first game with his new team.
But Pagano said that's no fault to Richardson.
''You look at Trent's runs, for whatever reason, there's penetration'' he said. ''There's a guy in the backfield waiting there. He had some really good runs, plays that he made in space, screens, things like that he does a great job with.
''Just, for whatever reason, we miss a block here or there and a guy is sitting there free in the hole. It just happens to be that we just handed the ball to (Richardson), so it's nothing that he did. We'll get it fixed. We'll get the holes there.''
Now the Colts have an extended week - a stretch of 10 days before heading to Arizona to face the Cardinals and former Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who stepped in as interim head coach last season when Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia.
NOTES: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey suffered an ankle injury in Thursday's game and is day to day. ... CB Greg Toler (groin), CB Josh Gordy (groin), and safety Delano Howell (neck) will be evaluated on Monday and could return for Indy's game against the Cardinals. ... Pagano expects LB Erik Walden to hear from the NFL after he pulled the helmet off and head-butted Tennessee's Delanie Walker on Thursday. ''I'm sure something obviously is going to come down with the league,'' Pagano said. ''You just hope and pray it's nothing too serious.''
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