INDIANAPOLIS – There seemed to be a big sigh of relief inside Lucas Oil Stadium when the Indianapolis Colts not only opened their game against the Houston Texans on Dec. 15 with quarterback Andrew Luck in the shotgun, but also in the no-huddle.
Part of the reason behind the change in the Colts' offensive approach was because they didn’t have a fullback. The other reason was because they wanted to find a way to get off to a quicker start.
They went 80 yards in 11 plays, with the drive ending with Luck finding receiver Griff Whalen for a 14-yard touchdown.
“We didn’t have a fullback available, so we had to do what we had to do,” offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. “And it worked out, it worked out. It was great to start the game that way with 11 plays and finish with the touchdown. But we’re going to do whatever it is that we feel like is necessary to move the football.”
It was a whatever-it-takes approach with the Colts, whose first half offensive struggles have been well documented this season, against the Texans. They used an empty backfield with running back Trent Richardson lined up on the outside at receiver. Luck was able to spread the ball around, completing passes to five different players. It also helped that the Colts opened the game 5-for-5 on third down.
“I think there is a rhythm you get into if you can get that first first down and a second first down,” Luck said.
The Colts were effective running the ball out of the shotgun, too. They gained 98 of their 152 yards rushing out of the shotgun formation. Running back Donald Brown had a 26-yard run up the middle out of the shotgun on the team’s opening drive of the game.
“You still want to run the ball at certain points,” Luck said. “It’s still focused on running the football, just from different formations, different ways, and it worked out. It worked out last week, which was good.”
It would be easy to assume that the Colts would continue this approach going forward. But it’s not that easy.
Playing on the road and weather conditions impact how much the Colts play up-tempo. Both of those factors could play a part in things on Sunday. The Colts are on the road at Arrowhead Stadium, and there’s a chance of snow in Kansas City. Having three-and-out possessions doesn’t help, either, as Hamilton said at some point the defensive coach will look at him like, "That was quick," if they’re not able to sustain any drives playing that way.
“Everything plays into it,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “You want to be able to win on the road. In that environment we’re going into, really feel like you got to be able to run the ball, control the clock, win the time of possession, take care of the football, no turnovers, win the field position battle, play great situational football. If we feel like that’s the way we can get things done and move the chains, then we’ll do it.”