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In a rush to fix running game

Beat-up Colts average just 39 yards

INDIANAPOLIS – This isn’t supposed to happen, not with a Pro Bowl running back, not on a team rife with offensive stars. But it has.

The Indianapolis Colts are the NFL’s worst team when it comes to running the ball. They’ve averaged 39 yards over their first two games, and that statistic has quarterback Peyton Manning irked.

“The simple answer to the problem is we need to execute better,” said Manning, whose heroics passing brought the Colts back from 15 points down to an 18-15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings last weekend.

“We don’t have a very complicated running game. Anybody who watches us play knows we just have a (small number) of runs that we do, … so the ones we’re doing we just have to do a better job of running them.”

While there has been turmoil on the offensive line – the offseason departure of guard Jake Scott, plus injuries to Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, left tackle Tony Ugoh and guard Ryan Lilja – the Colts haven’t used that as an excuse for the lack of running production.

And though there has been speculation that Manning’s offseason knee surgery and lack of mobility has been a factor in the ineptitude of the Colts’ stretch plays, Manning denied that, too.

“It’s really the same play,” said Manning, who has been pitching the ball to running back Joseph Addai, rather than handing it off, to protect his knee on stretch plays.

“That probably would be the reason why I haven’t been (handing it off), but it’s the same blocking. As (offensive coordinator) Tom Moore said, he’s been coaching a long time and has yet to see the play where you don’t have to block anybody. Whether you toss it, hand it off or throw it, everybody’s got to block the right people.”

The 1-1 Colts expect Saturday (knee) will be back in the lineup against the 0-2 Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, but Ugoh (groin) is doubtful. Charlie Johnson, who is normally a guard, will likely take Ugoh’s spot.

“I think we’ve been executing what the defenses have been giving us,” Johnson said when asked about the lack of run production. “A lot of times we’ve got guys locked up and with (other teams’) guys all up in the gaps, that’s not conducive for running the ball. So we’ve had to throw a lot more than we’d like.”

Colts coach Tony Dungy said the offensive line must do a better job of creating holes, and the key is creating greater cohesiveness.

“Part of offensive line play is you are working with four other guys,” said Dungy, whose team’s run production is down 67.6 yards a game from last season. “It’s calls and communication. Nobody can really block people one-on-one. You have to know where your help is and where you can expect help from. … They’re not going to all of a sudden become stronger or faster or bigger, but knowing a little bit more about what’s going on and who you are playing with does help in the offensive line.”