Gore, Mack team up to give Colts ground game change of pace
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Chuck Pagano has a new recipe for the Indianapolis Colts offense.
And he plans on giving opposing defenses a full helping.
As the Colts deal with the likelihood that short-yardage specialist Robert Turbin will be lost for the season with an injured elbow and quarterback Andrew Luck’s recovery from shoulder surgery may take longer than was even expected a week ago, Pagano wants to start feeding the ball more steadily to veteran running back Frank Gore and rookie Marlon Mack.
“Mack and Frank. Frank and Mack. Mac and cheese. Whatever you want to call it,” Pagano joked. “We’re going with Frank and Mack. Frank and Mack attack. You guys like it? I like it. I just made it up.”
Anyway you cut it, a stronger ground game could be just what the Colts (2-4) need to get their season back on track.
Indy has trailed at halftime just once all season and has led in the fourth quarter four times. Still, they’ve only managed to hang on for two wins — both over winless teams.
The problem: An inefficient second-half offense has forced a worn-down defense to stay on the field far too long, allowing those precious leads to slip away.
Fortunately, for the Colts, they are only one game out of the AFC South lead and can stay in the division chase with a win over Jacksonville (3-3) on Sunday.
But with the Jaguars leading the league in sacks (23) and turnover margin (plus-10) and possessing one of the top young cornerback combinations in the NFL, Indy’s best option might not be relying on its young starting quarterback, Jacoby Brissett .
Instead, they’ll likely test the league’s 31st ranked run defense with a steady diet of Gore and Mack.
“Whatever we’ve got to do to get it done, we’ve got to do,” Gore said. “He (Mack) is a young kid, who is willing to learn. He’s got a lot of speed and he’s doing great, and I think it helps that we’re different kinds of backs.”
Perfect complements, actually.
The 34-year-old Gore has spent most of his career playing the blue-collar guy who has success running steadily inside the tackles.
Only six players — Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, LaDainian Tomlinson and Jerome Bettis — have rushed for more yards than Gore (13,353). He needs 310 yards to pass Bettis and 13 carries to pass Sanders (3,062) for No. 6 on the attempts list.
A year ago, Gore became the NFL’s oldest 1,000-yard runner since 1984 and if he starts getting a few more carries each game, he could do it again.
Mack has taken note.
“Going out there with the legend Frank every day feels great,” Mack said. “Just working hard, getting out there and doing good.”
The 21-year-old rookie prefers a different course.
Now that the fourth-round draft pick is finally healthy, he’s shown the Colts he can be a home run hitter and perhaps their back of the future.
Mack’s breakout game came two weeks ago when he carried nine times for 91 yards, including an impressive 22-yard scoring run in an overtime win over San Francisco.
He’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry despite having 12 of 27 carries go for zero or negative yards and his two TD runs are tied with Gore for second on the team.
And with Turbin out of the mix, the Colts want Mack to get more than the two touches he had in Monday night’s loss at Tennessee.
“I feel like I’m getting better each week,” he said. “Just got to stay focused. No mental mistakes.”
And stay hungry.
“Frank and Mack. Not cheese and mac,” Pagano said. “We’re going Frank and Mack.”