ColtPower Playbook: Three Big Plays

Jess Huffman breaks down three big plays from the Colts-49ers game. Find out what made them so special -- and why they worked -- in this edition of ColtPower Playbook.

The adjective "superlative" is defined two ways:

1. Of the highest order, or degree; surpassing or superior to all others.
2. Excessive or exaggerated.

Using the definitions second and first, respectively, CBS correspondents Dick Enberg and Dan Dierdorf "superlatively" used the word "superlative," as they so annoyingly announced the Colt's lackluster, 28-3, win over San Francisco Sunday.

Despite what Howdy Doody and Mr. Belvedere might tell you, the Colts didn't play like a superior team in the NFL Sunday. While Enberg and Dierdorf were praising the Colts effort throughout the game, I was throwing things at the television.

The Colts didn't play their best game Sunday, but there were still shades of the team we all know and love. The Colts got off to a good start, but seemed to slow down once they got a quick lead. To their credit, San Francisco doesn't exactly bring out the best in people. It's kind of like picking on your little sister in a basketball game – you know you can beat her, but you still have to allow a few blocked shots every now and then just to pump up the crowd.

Here's a few of the crowd pleasers, and how they worked.

Getting Clark going

Out of all the changes in the offseason, I think Dallas Clark has added the most to the Colts' offense. He's constantly making the key block, mixing up the offense from the slot, running precise routes, and making great catches. The success of the Colts' offense this season may hinge on whether he and Brandon Stokley can perform from the slot, exchanging roles and confusing opposing defenses.

We already examined last week how crucial Stokley was, acting as a decoy while Clark ran routes from the slot. This week, Stokley was more involved and Clark was playing more as a typical tight end. What will it be next week? Who knows? That's what's helping make the Colts more effective.

Clark got things going for his team early on with the Colts' best designed and executed play of the football game. After a bonehead false start by Pro Bowler Tarik Glenn, the Colts were set on third-and-eight from their own 29-yard line with 10:21 remaining in the first quarter. It was only the third play from scrimmage, and it looked like the Colts might have to punt after their first set of downs. However, Tom Moore, Peyton Manning and the Colts offense all came through.

The Colts' were in a bunch formation, with Stokley, Wayne and Harrison all piled to the right. Manning was in the shotgun formation with Edgerrin James as his blocker. Clark was at the left end of the offensive line, while the defense showed five bringing the heat to Manning, leaving six in coverage.

At the snap, James stayed to block while Wayne ran a flat route to the right sideline. Harrison ran a deep post route and Stokley ran a slant route to the middle of the field. With the Colts three wide receivers starting from the right side of the field, the San Francisco defensive backfield was shifted right. Wayne drew single coverage, and Marvin drew a safety in while Stokley drew double coverage on the right side of the middle of the field. This left Clark, coming off the line and running a slant route, with single coverage.

Manning recognized the situation, Edge threw a great block at a 49er rushing defender, Clark slanted inside cornerback Shawntae Spencer and caught a 16-yard pass to get the Colts' first down.

The play was impressive. In fact, it was so impressive that I thought the Colts were destined for many big plays on offense Sunday.

Not so. It was probably so easy it just wasn't fun.

Edge makes a fool

The Edge has never been a running back to break out big plays. He's more of a power runner that chips away, pounds the ball, and gets the extra three yards you need to succeed.

On Sunday, we nearly saw him take it to the house – and take safety Tony Parrish home with him.

Just two plays after Clark's 16-yard catch, Indianapolis was set on the San Francisco 47-yard line. The offense set up spread out with Wayne along the left sideline, Stokley in the slot and Marvin along the right sideline. Manning took the snap, handed off to Edge, who started a prototypical Colts stretch play. However, this was in no way typical.

It was nice – real nice.

The blocking of the Indianapolis front line was amazing on this play. First off, linebacker Jeff Ulbrich reads the play from the beginning and nearly gets through the offensive line, catching James for a loss. However, offensive guard Jake Scott sees Ulbrich at the last minute, just before he gets in arms' length of James and throws a key block. Offensive tackle Ryan Diem moves his man to the stretch, Stokley and Harrison each have a San Francisco cornerback pushing them toward the sideline, awaiting the James cut.

Well, it happens. James makes the cut.

He's moving down field and the gap is narrowing when Jeff Saturday comes out of nowhere to deliver a hit to San Francisco defensive tackle Anthony Adams. James hits his seam, takes off and appears to be possibly going the distance with Wayne in front. If Wayne would have thrown a good block here or there, he might have been able to go all the way. However, Parrish catches up with James and lunges to make the tackle at the San Francisco 27-yard line.

I think he's got him – uh, no.

James refuses to give up. He carries Parrish all the way to the San Francisco 14-yard line. That's 13-yards. Thirteen – with an NFL football player on his back.

The run was James' longest run of the season and by far his prettiest. It put the Colts in the red zone, where they would score on a Dominic Rhodes run up the gut. As it turned out that's all the Colts would need in the game.

Despite his "fumble" on the one-yard line, Sunday was Edge's best day in a while. Granted, he was playing against San Francisco. But nevertheless, it was fun to watch.

Clark gets back in the fun

The more I see of Clark, the more I like him. Most of all, I think he's a hustler and a hard worker – something the Colts' are loaded with.

With 2:52 remaining in the first quarter, the Colts were back against the wall on second-and-11 from their own one-yard line. Indianapolis is set a single-back formation. They're going to run the ball up the gut for a couple, get out of the end zone, throw the ball on third down – right?


Manning fakes a handoff to James, Wayne is down the left sideline, while Clark is on the left side of the line to block. Wayne is at a full sprint, stops, shakes Spencer out of his shoes, curls and is hit in the chest with a pass at the 11-yard line.

That was nice, real nice. But that wasn't what I loved.

What I loved is what Dallas Clark did and how Wayne recognized it and gained extra yardage.

When Manning releases, Clark is still blocking at the one, maybe two-yard line. However, when Clark realizes the pass has been released, he goes full blast to its destination at the 11-yard line.

Wayne alertly sees his blocker coming. He waits patiently, turning his curl route into a full U-turn, forcing linebacker Saleem Rasheed to over-pursue and run into Spencer. Clark emerges at the 11-yard line and clears the lane for Wayne, who proceeded to gain another 12 yards on the play.

Without Clarks' hustle, Wayne has no blockers and is actually short of a first down. Instead, the Colts get an additional 12 yards.

The drive didn't turn into a score, but it showed how much a little hustle and hard work can earn your team on any given play.

As the old cliché goes: football is a game of inches. I'll take every inch I can get.

Premium Members can enjoy added content and analysis on Edgerrin James' season to date, including a trend that defies his reputation in our Thursday, October 12th edition of our Sportswriters' Blog.

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