One lost fumble seemed to tarnish Daniel Herron’s stellar Sunday against his former team.
The Indianapolis Colts running back caught 10 passes for 85 yards and ran for 56 yards on 12 carries with one touchdown in a 26-10 AFC Wild Card playoff win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Herron's 141 total yards were the most for a Colts running back this season. But after his first career playoff start, “Boom” bemoaned losing a second-quarter fumble at the Bengals’ 35-yard line that ended a promising scoring drive.
The second-year pro shook his head when the inevitable topic was broached.
“O-o-o-h,” Herron said. “I mean, any time you let the ball go, me, myself, I’m going to be upset. That’s the No. 1 goal, to take care of the ball. I’ve just got to keep working at it and keep getting better at it.”
Herron fumbled a second time at the Bengals’ 33 in the fourth quarter, but center Khaled Holmes fell on it. The replay appeared to show he was down, but the Colts didn’t challenge. Rookie backup Zurlon Tipton entered, much to Herron’s visible disgust.
It’s fair to say Herron did far more good than bad in starting for Trent Richardson, who did not play after missing practice during the week due to illness. A reserve for three games with the Bengals in 2012, Herron got the Colts going on the game’s opening possession with two receptions for 26 yards and three rushes for 32 yards, the last carry a 2-yard touchdown.
The 10 pass receptions tied for fourth on the team’s all-time, single-game playoff list, and tied for first for a running back. Joseph Addai caught 10 passes in Super Bowl XLI in 2007.
“He’s gaining confidence,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said of Herron. “Obviously there’s some plays out there that he’d like to have back and you’ve got to clean up, but that guy’s a playmaker. He can create when there’s not much there. He’s got the ability to to create his own yards and make people miss in space, especially on the check-downs and things like that in the pass game.
“Proud of ‘Boom’ and where he’s at. It’s coming at a good time.”
The Colts had 114 rushing yards, their highest total in more than a month. They ran for 126 in a Nov. 30 home win over Washington.
“We definitely want to get the run game going, try to execute some good runs and try to help (quarterback) Andrew Luck out,” Herron said. “I think we did a pretty good job today, balanced some things out. Andrew did a great job, made some great decisions. The offensive line did a great job, protecting him and doing some run blocking.”
Tipton added 40 yards on 11 carries. Herron’s best carry was a 27-yard rush in the opening series.
Pagano said Richardson, who Herron has outperformed since getting snaps after Ahmad Bradshaw’s season-ending injury on Nov. 16, will be able to play in Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoff game at the Denver Broncos.
“(Richardson) practiced Wednesday and Thursday, and then he left after Thursday and he was dealing with an illness and missed Friday,” Pagano said. “‘Boom’ and ‘Tip’ (Tipton) got most of the reps Friday and Saturday, so we went with those two and held (Richardson).”
Question is, who gets the start against the Broncos? Pagano has previously stated that Richardson is “the starting running back.”
Even if Herron reverts to a backup role, he knows he’ll get snaps. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 78 regular-season attempts, including a 49-yard touchdown run. That was the Colts’ longest rush of the season. Richardson averaged 3.3 yards per carry in 159 attempts with a long of 27 yards and three scores.
“I was very excited for the opportunity,” Herron said of his first playoff start. “It’s just one of those things, when you get the opportunity to take full advantage of it.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.