Joseph Addai, Colts Unexpectedly Run Redskins Into the Ground
So suffice it to say that 87,000-plus fans inside FedEx Field Sunday night were fired up after Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo got to Manning, forced a fumble and the Redskins capitalized with a touchdown to close within three points four minutes into the second half.
That the Indianapolis Colts instantly responded with a big play and quick-strike touchdown was no shock, but Manning and friends usually do their damage through the air. This time, though, tailback Joseph Addai ripped through the Redskins for a 46-yard run on first down, then three plays later scored on a 13-yard burst, capping a four-play, 66-yard drive to regain a double-digit lead that stifled the home team's momentum.
"Huge," Manning said. "Three runs, all Addai."
En route to their 27-24 prime-time road victory, the Colts rolled up a season-high 469 yards of total offense. Again, hardly a surprise, except for the fact that 170 came on the ground (another season best), including 128 on 17 carries by Addai, who halted a string of 27 straight games -- dating to the 2008 season -- that the Indianapolis offense failed to have a 100-yard rusher.
"That was really good to see," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said.
What wasn't good to see was Addai getting laid out by linebacker London Fletcher early in the final quarter, which forced Addai from the game with a shoulder injury. The fifth-year pro and former first-round draft pick did not return and wasn't around to chat after Indianapolis' win, but the Colts (4-2) hope the upcoming bye will be as good a get-well card for Addai as the Redskins' bottom-feeding defense was for the oftentimes non-existent Indy running game. Even when Addai, who averaged 7.5 yards per carry, was sidelined, backup Mike Hart -- the Colts' third tailback with Donald Brown injured and inactive -- came in and rushed for 43 yards.
The ground game combined with another precise night from Manning to help Indianapolis overcome three turnovers and two missed field goals and hold off the game Redskins (3-3) down the stretch.
"Anytime a team runs the ball on you it comes down to gap control, no matter who you have out there," Redskins defensive tackle Kedric Gholston said. "It doesn't matter if you have 11 kickers out there, everybody has to have their gap."
Washington, which converted to a 3-4 alignment under new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett this season, came in surrendering 410 yards per game. The Redskins stayed almost exclusively in dime and nickel schemes to combat Manning's passing game, and for the most part, never set their defensive front. With Washington's linemen in constant motion, the Colts took the dare and capitalized on those aforementioned gaps that were constantly changing as Manning went through his audibles.
"They were trying to create a little confuston out there," Indy right tackle Ryan Diem said. "But at the same time, they were in personnel -- with the their prevent and dime and nickel packages -- that gave us a chance to run the ball a little bit."
"So we went for it."
The Colts began the night ranked 28th in the league in rushing offense at just 79.8 yards per game, so if it took getting looks of no down linemen to get the ground game going, they weren't about to complain about it.
"You certainly hope you'd be able to run it. They were essentially in a dime defense the entire game," said Manning, who was his usual razor-sharp self in hitting 25-of-38 passes for 307 yards and a pair of TDs, including a 57-yard to Pierre Garcon in the first quarter. "And then we were in three wides the majority of the game, kind of playing up tempo, two-minute where it was probably kind of hard to substitute different personnel. It looked like they were kind of playing a lot of pass coverage, and they have great pass rushers. But you have to be able to be balanced. You can't just throw it every down."
The Redskins were in those packages most of the game because balanced for the Colts is different than balanced for most other teams.
"Put it this way," Hart said with a laugh. "It's not 50-50."
Added Diem: "I wouldn't call us 'unbalanced' -- I'd call us an 'opportunistic.' Whatever looks the defense gives us, we're going to take advantage of those, whether it's running or passing. Yeah, sometimes we throw it 57 times, but sometimes we run it 25 or 30 times."
The Redskins were an inviting target. Besides the big chunks of yards on defense, Donovan McNabb was not sharp on the night. His errant throws included two interceptions and, coupled with a missed field goal, helped the Redskins become the 27th victim of the Colts over the last 34 games against NFC opponents, a run that includes seven straight and 13 of the last 15.
After opening the season with a loss at AFC South rival Houston, Indianapolis will enjoy the next week off and focus on returning in time for a rematch with the Texans (4-2). The two teams share top spot in the division, with the winner of Monday night's Tennessee-Jacksonville game set to join them.
"We're in a little different position than we have been in the past," Diem said. "We're fighting every week to stay on top."
"That's what we'll have to accept, starting with a season opening loss on the road [at Houston]," Manning said. "But we've worked hard to get to 4-2. It feels like it's been more than six games, the way our team is feeling physically. The bye is coming at a good time."
They'll enter it running.