Brown getting 2nd chance to deliver for Colts

Colts running back Donald Brown waited patiently for a chance to

start this season.

When he finally did, Brown delivered.

The strong, silent running back who spent 4 1/2 seasons trying

to break through finally did Sunday, rushing for 46 of his 54 yards

on the Colts’ final drive and scoring Indy’s only touchdown in a

22-14 victory over Tennessee that put them on the verge of an

eighth AFC South title in 11 years.

”I knew regardless of what happened, my number would get called

in some form or fashion,” Brown said Monday. ”When it is, you

just make the most of it.”

Coach Chuck Pagano was so impressed with Brown’s effort that he

said Monday that Brown would start again this weekend when the AFC

South-leading Colts (8-4) visit AFC North-leading Cincinnati (8-4)

– a pivotal game for playoff seeding.

Brown has seen just about everything in his 4 1/2 seasons in the

league.

As a rookie, he was part of a team chasing perfection on its way

to an AFC title. Two years ago, he endured the ignominy of an 0-13

start and the chase of imperfection. Last year, he was part of the

second-greatest turnaround in league history, and now the Colts are

one win, or one Titans loss, away from clinching their eighth

division crown in 11 years.

But for most of that time, Brown has watched those things

happened – and this season has been no different.

When starting running back Vick Ballard went down with a

season-ending knee injury after the season opener, Indy turned to

offseason acquisition Ahmad Bradshaw. When Bradshaw was lost with a

season-ending neck injury after Week 3, the newly acquired Trent

Richardson inherited the job even though he was still learning the

offense. And as Richardson’s struggles continued and the patience

of fans waned, the Colts continued to make Brown the change-of-pace

guy.

Brown never complained. Instead, he just kept working, knowing

his chance would come.

”He is the ultimate team guy,” NFL sacks leader Robert Mathis

said. ”He doesn’t like to talk about himself because he’s not his

favorite subject. He just goes to work and he just lets his play do

all the talking.”

Brown prefers it that way.

But this was not the plan Indy had when it took the UConn star

with the 27th overall pick in 2009. Back then, the Colts envisioned

Brown becoming the workhorse back and the eventual replacement for

Joseph Addai.

Though he never quite lived up to the billing, he refused to

give up and became one of the most respected guys in the locker

room.

”He’s a great pro. He’s reliable. He’s accountable,” Pagano

said.

It’s been tough.

Brown started only nine times in his first two seasons, running

for just 778 combined yards and five touchdowns. Even in 2011, with

Peyton Manning out and the Colts’ offense sputtering, Brown was one

of the lone bright spots averaging 4.8 yards on 134 carries. Yet he

still found himself playing behind Addai and making only two

starts.

It looked like Brown might get another chance when Indy cleaned

house last season and kept Brown around.

Instead, after taking Luck’s first NFL pass for a long touchdown

in the 2012 preseason opener, Brown lost the starting job to

Ballard when he got hurt and never won it back. Brown finished the

season with 57 carries for 324 yards and three TDs.

Critics have long complained Brown can’t pass block, pointing to

a blown pickup on fourth down late in a loss to Miami in Week 2 as

one illustration, and that he didn’t hit holes hard enough. Today,

those same people champion Brown’s patience to set up blocks,

something they don’t believe Richardson has done well enough.

Richardson is averaging 2.8 yards per carry since coming over from

Cleveland in a September trade, while Brown has thrived in mostly

limited action.

He rushed three times for 65 yards at Jacksonville, six times

for 37 yards against Seattle, three times for 15 yards at San

Diego, six times for 49 yards at Houston and 14 times for 80 yards

and two TDs at Tennessee before Sundays’ showing. Indy’s only lost

just one game during that stretch – to the Chargers.

And Brown doesn’t have any plans to change things now.

”Just staying the course,” he said when asked what’s different

this year. ”Knock on wood, staying healthy, staying strong. Just

obviously studying the game plan inside and out. It’s knowing what

everybody else is doing and then obviously knowing what the defense

is going to do. It’s just studying, staying healthy and just

staying patient.”

Notes: Pagano said Daniel ”Boom” Herron will have surgery for

a torn pectoral muscle and will be placed on season-injured

reserve. … Starting defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois is

expected to miss two to four weeks after being diagnosed with a

partially torn plantar fascia. … Pagano also said Jeff

Linkenbach, who started at right guard Sunday, has a slight tear in

his quad and is listed as week-to-week. … The Colts are planning

to ease three other injured players – cornerbacks Josh Gordy

(groin) and Greg Toler (groin) and backup linebacker Kavell Conner

(ankle) back into practice this week in hopes all three could play

against the Bengals.

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