INDIANAPOLIS – Jack Doyle sounds almost as though he relishes seeing defenses bring an extra defender into the box.
The tactic is designed to discourage offenses from running the football, but the Indianapolis Colts recently have been calling the defense’s bluff. During the current three-game winning streak, the Colts (6-5) are averaging 36.3 points and 217 rushing yards.
That includes 41 points and 264 rushing yards last week against the Buffalo Bills’ top-ranked defense.
“I love running the ball,” Doyle said. “I love blocking. I have a ton of fun doing it. But, yeah, I think sometimes teams will (load the box), and they’re doing that to get you to check to a pass. So sometimes you can kind of catch them off guard maybe, if that’s the right way to put it.
“But they’re doing that thinking you’re going to check out of it, and our coaches do a great job of scheming things up in the way we’ve been attacking people in the run game. So it’s been fun.”
On Sunday, the two-time Pro Bowl tight end and his Indianapolis teammates could face their biggest challenge yet.
The reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) bring the league’s No. 1-ranked run defense to Lucas Oil Stadium, and it’s been built in large part upon the highest percentage of “heavy” boxes in the NFL. The Bucs use a front with eight or more defenders on some 60% of their snaps, daring teams to throw the ball and then using frequent blitzes to put pressure on the quarterback.
As a result, quarterback Carson Wentz – who had just 20 pass attempts at Buffalo – is likely to put the ball in the air more often this week. But the Colts won’t entirely abandon the run.
The plan every week is to establish the ground game and run the rest of the offense off that success. To that end, Indianapolis employs a variety of rushing techniques. From changing blocking schemes to mixing up personnel, it’s all about maximizing the opportunity on each snap.
“There’s definitely a plethora of things we can do in the run game, which just shows how versatile our offensive line is,” running back Jonathan Taylor said. “Also our receivers just being able to dig linebackers out, dig safeties out, our offensive line to be able to run any scheme that we may need to run. And then as well as myself being able to understand different schemes, and if I don’t understand the scheme game to work at in order to better myself in that scheme so that we’re able to run anything versus any kind of defensive front we get.”
Including a loaded box.
Doyle said the key against a heavy front is to dig the extra man out of the box. If all the skill position players aside from the ball carrier get a helmet on their man, it leaves the running back with one man to beat.
That’s a scenario in which Taylor thrives.
“That’s your job,” he said. “It’s 11-on-11 on the field, so there’s going to be someone left for you, and that’s where your job comes into play. In order to execute, you have to beat that one man. Everyone else has won their one-on-one matchups to get you to that point. Now it’s your time to win your one-on-one matchup.”
THEY SAID IT
“I got voted to do it, so I did it. And then I just kind of just let it flow. It just went off of my heart, spoke from my heart and Frank deserves that. So it was well worth it.” – wide receiver T.Y. Hilton on presenting a game ball to head coach Frank Reich after last week’s win in Buffalo.
Though Thurday’s practice was just a walkthrough and the injury report was estimated, left guard Quenton Nelson would not have participated for the second consecutive day. Reich said the three-time All-Pro will continue to be evaluated day by day.
Linebacker Darius Leonard (ankle) was listed as limited for the second straight day, and cornerback T.J. Carrie (knee) and Hilton (toe) were listed as full participants.