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Balanced Colts able to flaunt prowess

– There is an increasingly popular theory making the rounds in NFL circles. It states that teams need not have a balanced offense to be successful, that aerial teams rule the day.

As evidence, people point to the 2008 Arizona Cardinals and 2009 Indianapolis Colts, teams that ranked dead last in rushing, then went to Super Bowls.

Hogwash.

There’s no way a rule eons old has been disproved on the basis of two teams, and even the Colts know it. They could have been content with shelving the run in favor of the pass – they’ve ranked no better than 15th in the last eight years rushing the ball – but they came into this season focused on improving their balance because it takes pressure off quarterback Peyton Manning and keeps their defense on the sidelines longer.

It wasn’t an easy proposition in Week 1, though, with the offensive line banged up and porous in a 34-24 loss to Houston, during which the Colts threw the ball 57 times and rushed it 10.

But the Colts came into Sunday night’s game determined to run the ball more, and that plan was amplified when the New York Giants came out playing nickel and dime defenses almost exclusively, to counter Manning’s passing game.

“When teams are playing five and sometimes six (defensive backs) on first and second downs, they are obviously playing pass coverage,” Manning said. “In the past, we haven’t been able to run against that look, which has been frustrating because we are sort of playing into their hands. So it was nice to be able to run the ball versus that look.”

The result was a 38-14 victory, during which the Colts ran it 43 times for 160 yards and a touchdown, while Manning completed 20 of 26 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns.

The Colts were balanced and formidable.

“I think if you give us the opportunity, we will be able to (run) it and it showed (Sunday). We all came together, we know what we can do as a unit and we were able to do that,” said Joseph Addai, whose 92 rushing yards were more than he’d had in his previous 24 games.

There have been instances over the past few years in which we’ve thought Addai is poised for a resurgence, only to see him not hit that 100-yard plateau. Donald Brown has shown some flashes, more than anything he’s been absent from the playing field.

But Sunday’s performance was the Colts’ best rushing job in ages – they had gone 50 games without gaining 160 yards before Sunday – and now they get to take on Denver and its 22nd ranked run defense.

Look for the Colts’ offense to be balanced again this week. If the Colts can continue their successful running, they’ll be more dangerous.

If not, it’ll all be on Manning … again.

Justin A. Cohn is a writer for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1997. He can be reached by e-mail jcohn@jg.net; phone, 461-8429; or fax 461-8648; or to discuss this column or others he has written recently, go to the “Sports” topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net.

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