If ever there was a more inviting opportunity for the Indianapolis Colts to snap their 46-game streak of not having a 100-yard rusher, it should be Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The visiting New Orleans Saints have the 30th-ranked run defense, and are dead last in total yards allowed. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s team allows 138.2 rushing yards per game. The Colts rank 22nd in rushing offense at 96.7 yards per game.
Anybody up for seeing more of Colts running back Frank Gore?
He averaged 6 yards per carry in Sunday night’s 34-27 home loss to the New England Patriots, but he had just 13 carries for 78 yards because the Colts fell behind and passed on 27 consecutive downs at the end.
Gore, 32, came close the week before with 98 yards on 22 carries in a win at Houston. The 11th-year pro went nine weeks without a 100-yard game while with San Francisco last season, but he topped the century mark in back-to-back games before and after that stretch.
In other words, he’s due. And so are the Colts, whose last 100-yard effort came from Vick Ballard, who had 105 yards on 18 carries in a 29-17 loss at Houston on Dec. 16, 2012. When Gore joined the Colts in offseason free agency, he learned that Ballard effort represents the team’s only 100-yard rushing game in the Andrew Luck era.
“When you’re a running back, you always want to get a 100-yard game,” Gore said Wednesday. “That means you’re doing a great job your O-line has done a great job.
“But if we get the win, I’m OK with it. Whatever I can do to help the team, I’m fine with it. In the running game, I see we’re taking steps. We’ve just got to keep working at it and get better.”
Gore has had five rushes for 46 yards wiped out by penalties. The Colts are tied with Chicago for the league lead with 16 holding penalties. The league average is 8.5 per team.
Despite the setbacks, which include two lost fumbles for touchbacks, Gore has shown there’s still plenty of burst in his seasoned legs. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry, gaining 403 yards on 89 carries with three touchdowns. In each of the past four games, he’s had a long rush of 20-plus yards.
Head coach Chuck Pagano said Monday he’s liked what Gore has provided and admitted the Colts could have stuck with the run game a little longer against the Patriots.
“The success that we had running the football, Frank was running it really well. I think he averaged over 6.0 yards a carry at the end of the day,” Pagano said. “Did we get away from it a little bit too soon? Yeah, but then again you’re going to try to do what you think is best to get you back in the game and get the ball down the field and get it in the end zone.
“We could have stayed maybe with the run game a little bit longer, but there was a point where I told coach, told (offensive coordinator) Pep (Hamilton), ‘We’ve got to go up-tempo and we got to get this thing down the field in a hurry.’ Probably could have ran it a few times there, but that’s on me.”
Last week, Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman needed just 13 rushes to gain 100 yards against the Saints. Opponents are averaging 4.8 yards per rush against New Orleans.
Look for the Colts to establish the ground game early. Question is, will they stick with it enough later to finally end their dubious 46-game streak?
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.