Running Attack Better Than Advertised?

Just how much Indianapolis' running game has struggled this season has become, in large part, a matter of perception.

Statistically, the Colts rank 16th in the AFC and 31st in the league in rushing with an average of 76.9 yards per game. Joseph Addai's 540 yards leads the team, followed by Dominic Rhodes' 538 yards. Indianapolis is averaging just 3.4 yards per rushing attempt.

Addai's yardage this season would be the lowest for the Colts' leading ground gainer since Marshall Faulk ran for 587 in 1996. The team is certain to snap a five-year run of 1,000-yard rushers.

Dominic Rhodes has seen a spike in production lately
AP Photo/Denis Poroy

Those are the cold, hard facts. And it's hard to argue that the Colts haven't struggled with their ground game this year. The reasons are many.

The Colts have received inconsistent offensive line play due to injuries to key starters such as Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday and second-year offensive tackle Tony Ugoh. Three rookie offensive linemen (Jamey Richard, Mike Pollak and Steve Justice) have been added to the mix. Veteran offensive guard Ryan Lilja was lost for the season due to complications from offseason knee surgery, further diluting the depth up front.

For his part, Addai hasn't been fully healthy this year either, battling hamstring and shoulder injuries. And, finally, defenses have been playing Indianapolis much differently this year.

Aware of the uncertainty along the offensive line, the medical problems that have slowed Addai as well as the slow start by quarterback Peyton Manning caused by his preseason knee surgery, teams have been crowding the line of scrimmage and virtually daring the Colts to throw the football downfield.

But if you were to listen to team president Bill Polian, among others, perhaps the running game isn't quite as bad as a first glance may suggest.

"We have statistics that measure that which we believe is important, and we do everything we can to tweak and update and keep the offense very, very current given the personnel we have. But the most important thing you do offensively is a) be sound, so that you don't turn the ball over, and b) run the ball effectively," Polian said.

"That does not mean run it for 250 yards a game. It means run it effectively so people don't know whether you're going to run it or pass it, and when you do pass it, be effective and do not turn the ball over. We do all of those things and have done them well. The bottom line is this is an offense that functions very, very well and will continue to do that."

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