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The BP Watch: The Colts Are Not 5-2 “Because They Are Run-First”

This past week I read an article by Mike Wells of ESPN.com, the former Pacers beat writer for the Indy Star. The article contained Wells’ semi-regular Twitter mailbag, and included the following interaction:

Wait just a gosh darn minute.

What?

Keep in mind that all this comes in the midst of a discussion on how the Reggie Wayne injury will affect the Colts’ offense.

Let’s start by addressing the first assessment: that Pep Hamilton likely won’t make many adjustments in the coming weeks. I don’t disagree with Wells here, it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me at all if the Colts’ game plan stayed pretty much the same. It’s something I’ve come to expect. 

Running the ball more, however, would be a terrible, horrible mistake, simply because THE COLTS CAN’T RUN THE BALL.

The Colts wouldn’t tell you that though. Take this selection from Colts.com’s most recent Q&A post.

Is a breakout game for Trent Richardson on the horizon?

The Colts rushing attack is sixth in the NFL averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Thanks to an offensive line that has held the same starting five for the last three weeks, the Colts have had success on the ground against some of the league’s best defenses.

*Clap, clap*

That is what we like to call spinning the facts, and it’s done masterfully here.

First, the Colts are averaging 4.5 yards per carry, which is seventh in the league. Second, that 4.5 YPC is inflated greatly by Andrew Luck, who is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and over 26 yards per game on the ground. Take Luck’s stats out, and you’re left with the Colts averaging 4.2 yards per carry. When you take out the numbers of Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw, who are lost for the season and can’t contribute going forward, it lowers even more, averaging just over 4.0 YPC.

Most importantly, the Colts’ “bell cow” back Trent Richardson is averaging a paltry 3.0 yards per carry.

Third, the Colts’ rushing totals over the last three weeks have been their three lowest of the season. The team averaged less than four yards per carry in two of the three games, and the one game that they did reach 4.0 YPC came against San Diego and their abysmal defense.

Speaking of defense, where does this “some of the league’s best defenses” statement come from? Denver and San Diego both have horrible defenses. Seattle is very good defense, although the run defense is probably the weakest link (still good though).

Anyway, the point is, the Colts can’t actually run the ball very well. Like we’ve been saying all offseason, they just don’t have the offensive line for it. They can run well in spurts, and generally out of passing formations with Donald Brown in the backfield, but overall, the Colts’ haven’t run it well over the last few weeks.

With that, let’s revisit Mike Wells’ statements, statements that have been echoed by some fans as well, namely this particular thought process:

The Colts aren’t 5-2 because Luck is flinging the ball down the field all the time. They got their record by being a run-first team. They’ll stay that way.

This is just wrong. Plain, flat-out wrong.

The Colts are 5-2 because of plenty of reasons, and two main ones.

A. Andrew Luck has progressed terrifyingly (For the rest of the league) quickly and is playing like a top-five quarterback. 

B. The defense is playing exceptionally, outside of a few instances, especially the secondary. 

The Colts’ running game has been a positive factor in one win: the San Francisco game. While that was a big win, the biggest contributor in that game, Bradshaw, is also no longer an option.

This notion that the Colts are 5-2 BECAUSE of their running game is completely false. The running game has been much more of a negative factor than a positive one, especially during the Colts’ last two wins.

Even calling the Colts a run-first team at this point is a bit laughable. Andrew Luck is still dropping back over 60% of the time and absolutely is the driving force of the offense. The Colts can say it all they want, the media can say it all they want, but if you stop the Colts’ passing game, you’ll stop the offense 90% of the time.

Remember, the Colts ran for over four yards per carry against San Diego, but only scored nine points. Not because the Chargers stopped the run, but because they didn’t allow big passing plays and the Colts dropped eighteen million (roughly) passes.

The rest of the season, and the Colts’ Super Bowl chances, rely entirely on Luck and the passing offense’s ability to adapt without Wayne. If it can be effective without Wayne they’ll still be Super Bowl contenders. If Wayne’s absence derails Luck and the Colts’ production through the air, the Colts won’t win a playoff game.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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