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Ground-and-pound approach becoming Colts’ identity on offense

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts’ offensive linemen had never played in a game like Sunday night, when the Colts run-pass ratio in the second half was 29 rushes to 10 passes.

“Never have,” center Ryan Kelly said.

“Really? Come on,” left tackle Anthony Castonzo said.

“Nope,” left guard Quenton Nelson responded.

The Colts had no intention of trying to get into a high-scoring game through the air against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. They would have probably lost if they had tried.

What Indianapolis did was potentially layout a blueprint to beat the Chiefs, who suffered their first loss of the season. The Colts ran, ran some more and ran even more to keep Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs offense on the sideline in their upset victory. The Colts rushed for 180 yards on 45 attempts.

“That’s kind of the stat line you like to see,” Castonzo said. “That has to be a first. As an offense, you have to be able to run the ball when you need to run it and you have to able to pass when you need to pass. [Sunday] was a run day.”

The Colts defense deserves credit for holding the Chiefs to their lowest point total since Mahomes became the starter in 2018. But the unit got an assist from the offense by having the ball 15 more minutes than Kansas City.

Running back Marlon Mack led the ground attack by rushing for 132 yards on 29 carries. He continues to do a good job of showing patience and letting plays develop. Mack, who has rushed for 470 yards this season, is averaging an NFL-high among running backs of 3.09 seconds before reaching the line of scrimmage this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

Sunday was the third time in five games this season that the Colts rushed for more yards than they passed for. They would be 3-0 in those games if not for Adam Vinatieri ‘s missed kicks in Week 1. The 45 rushes were the most the Colts have attempted in a game since they had 46 attempts on the ground in a game against the New York Jets in 1997.

“This is what we want to define us,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “We want it to start up front. When we got here, [general manager] Chris [Ballard] two years ago, we would start talking about what we wanted to build. This is the kind of team we wanted to build.”

The Colts went into last season’s AFC divisional round playoff game against the Chiefs with the intention of controlling the clock on the ground. They scrapped that plan too soon and paid the price in their 31-13 playoff loss. Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni weren’t going to make the same mistake this time around.

“Offensively with what the offensive line did, again we came in and knew we wanted to control the ball. We weren’t trying to play keep away,” Reich said. “But we wanted to run the football. At the end when we wanted to grind it out, we grinded it out. We used up a lot of clock, got up two scores. A lot of credit to those guys up front and the backs.”

The offensive line embraces the running game because they get to push their men off the line of scrimmage. Having a ground attack to go with Andrew Luck ’s passing never came together. But the Colts have it now.

“I’ve been in a game where we threw the ball 65 times,” Kelly said. “I tell you what’s more fun, it’s running the ball. I think at a certain point you kind of black out. I’m just running whatever they call. We didn’t hit those massive long runs. They knew we were running the ball. We knew we were running the ball. Just kind of who wants it more. They were getting worn down, they were getting tired and we just kept pushing on them.”

The running game was the Colts’ best offense — and an extra element to their defense — in the second half against the Chiefs. They had the ball for nearly 23 out of a possible 30 minutes. The Colts had 138 total yards in the second half, with 103 of those yards coming on the ground.

Nelson said the constant pounding the ball on the ground takes a toll on the defense.

“You see them calling out to the sideline calling for subs and that’s a fun feeling seeing that,” he said. “They’re tired and need a sub. We’re tired, too, during those long drives, but being able to look across the line of scrimmage and see the defense with their hands on their hips and see they’re tired, too, and we have a stronger will than them is a really fun to see.”

via ESPN

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