It All Makes Perfect Sense ... Now

It was a draft pick selection that raised more than a few eyebrows back in 2003 simply because many people expected the Colts to use their first pick to help bolster their defense. Now many of those same people are undoubtedly glad that Indianapolis picked a tight end out of the University of Iowa instead.

When Bill Polian drafted Dallas Clark in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft, he shocked a fan base. With fan-favorite tight end Marcus Pollard already on the roster; an explosive offense and terrible defense, people wondered what the Colts were thinking.

While it may not have made sense at first, Polian's pick all of a sudden makes perfect sense.

On a team with two of the best wide receivers in football, Clark gives the Colts a third receiving threat that gives defenses fits – put a linebacker on him and he'll run by you, bring a safety up to man him and you'll see Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne put a double move on your cornerback.

"We can play him in tight, he can block at the point of attack, he catches the ball outside, we can flex him out and try to get mismatches with linebackers and safeties," Colts head coach Tony Dungy said.

Teams have bottled up Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne in the playoffs – a combined 25 catches for 287 yards between them this postseason – and as a result Clark has the second most receptions (17) and most receiving yards (281) amongst all playoff receivers. The Colts' tight end also has 14 first-down catches in the playoffs, the most in the NFL.

(Getty Images/Andy Lyons)
Clark had a monster game in the wildcard round, collecting nine catches for 103 yards against the Chiefs. Against Baltimore, in the divisional playoff, Clark had arguably the biggest catch of the game, hauling in a beautiful 14-yard reception on a 3rd-and-5 with 3:57 left in the game to help set up the game-clinching field goal.

In the AFC Championship game, Clark was outstanding, making over-the-shoulder grabs look easy and hauling in three catches for 100 yards in the second half to help the Colts complete their comeback over the Patriots.

"He's had an outstanding playoffs and made a lot of big catches for us, especially in the Baltimore and New England games," Dungy said.

Aside from playing in the traditional tight end role, Clark has spent a lot of time as the slot receiver due to the loss of Brandon Stokley. Clark is often able to fill this role in the slot due to the consistent play of Ben Utecht and Brian Fletcher at the tight end position. Both have proven to be viable options for Peyton Manning in the passing game and are solid blockers when called upon. Utecht and Fletcher have combined for 23 catches for 260 yards over the Colts last eight games.

Many in the media have discussed teams "overlooking" Clark, but that isn't the case. Teams know all about Clark, he's just difficult to stop with Harrison and Wayne on the edges. In the playoffs, opponents have dared Manning and the Colts to beat them over the middle with Clark & Company, and they have. Now the Colts hope Clark has a handful of big catches left in him for Sunday.

"Dallas makes a difference for us because he's so versatile. He can do a lot of things," Dungy said. "We can have him in the lineup and play a three-wide receiver type of game or a two-tight end type of game. He helps us tremendously."

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