The Titans' interior defensive line was supposed to be a strength. In the preseason it looked like that would hold form. But it’s hardly been the backbone of the defense as the team has gone 3-5 in the first half of the season.
The Colts came into Sunday’s game off a good running game in a win over Cleveland, but they hardly qualified as a good running team, ranking 22nd in the NFL with 96.5 ground yards a game.
That ranking will jump after 34 carries for 171 yards against the Titans.
Per ESPN Stats & Information, Indianapolis fared well running directly up the middle against Tennessee.
Entering the game, the Colts had the fewest rushing yards up the middle in the league -- 171. Colts running backs combined on 13 rushes for 79 yards and a touchdown on rushes between the guards Sunday, with eight rushes and 37 yards coming in the fourth quarter and overtime.
In their first six games, they averaged 3.1 yards on such runs. Against the Titans they boosted that number all the way to 6.1. In their first six games, they had four runs of 10 yards or more on such carries. Against the Titans they had three.
While Donald Brown and Vick Ballard deserve a lot of credit for a great running game, let’s not forget the offensive line. This patchwork group features a No. 1 pick at left tackle in Anthony Castonzo and a mid-level free-agent signing in center Samson Satele.
The three other guys are certainly upgradable in the long term. But as a group they are playing increasingly well, and it’s better than it’s been in recent years for sure.
If the Colts can get solid run efforts like this going forward, pressure on Andrew Luck and the defense will be alleviated and the team can be far more effective.
“It makes dropping back a little easier, guys aren’t just pinning their ears back,” Luck said. “I think it’s great to get first downs on consecutive runs -- it does so much for the offense, and allowing [Bruce Arians] to open it up and call some play-action stuff, open the passing game up as well. I think just a great job by the O-line and wide receivers and tight ends, everybody blocking down field.”