Colts’ notebook: Breakout runs return to offense, thanks to Marlon Mack

Marlon Mack #25 of the Indianapolis Colts rushes for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of a game at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – When considering the sudden impact Marlon Mack provides to the Indianapolis Colts’ offense – to the running game – pay attention to Chuck Pagano’s right hand.

The topic of discussion during Pagano’s Monday afternoon press conference at one point turned to Mack’s big-play prowess that was on display in the 26-23 overtime win over San Francisco the previous day.

The rookie led the Colts with 91 yards on nine carries, and the quality-over-quantity performance included runs of 35, 22 and 16 yards. Led by Mack’s bursts, Indy has five rushes of at least 20 yards in five games.

That big-play potential in the running game has been missing, right Chuck?

“You can go back last year and count on one hand . . . how many was it?’’ he asked.

Four, the fewest in the NFL, he was informed.

“One hand minus one thumb,’’ Pagano said, laughing and holding up his right hand.

Most distressing about the Colts’ 20-yard runs in 2016? Three were from quarterback Andrew Luck. The only 20-plus run by a back came from Frank Gore.

And then there’s this: the last time the Colts had the same player get loose for two 20-plus runs in the same was – that’s right – Luck, who had a pair of 20-yarders against Jacksonville in 2014.

Enter Mack.

When the Colts scouted the 5-11, 210-pounder at South Florida, they immediately were fascinated by his speed and ability generate game-swinging plays. He averaged 6.2 yards on 586 career carries. As a senior, Mack posted 15 rushing TDs, and six were 43 yards or longer.

“Marlon’s a change-of-pace guy,’’ Pagano said. “He’s a speed guy. He’s an edge guy. When he gets outside on the perimeter, he’s dangerous. We all saw that.’’

In three games, Mack has shown the knack for finding the corner and using his speed to outrun the pursuit. His 35-yard run to the 49ers 34-yard line in overtime helped position the Colts for Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning 51-yard field goal.

It was pure instincts.

“The one in overtime was really just me using my vision and going outside and bouncing it,’’ Mack said. “The other two were designed for me to go outside and some of them were designed for me to go inside.

“But on the one in overtime, I did it on my own, just took a chance and went out there and used my speed.’’

And speed can be difficult to defend.

“Yeah, definitely,’’ Mack said. “Speed is a big advantage in the league. If you got it, just use it.’’

What’s missing thus far has been consistency and effectiveness between the tackles. Of Mack’s 25 carries, 11 have resulted in no gain or lost yardage.

That will come the more Mack plays, and that time is coming. Look for him to gradually cut into Frank Gore’s workload.

“I think it would be wise to try and find ways to get him the football and get him more involved,’’ Pagano said. “I think that would have happened by itself had he been available the entire time.’’

Prior to his breakout game at the expense of the 49ers, Mack missed the two previous games with a shoulder injury.

Luck ruled out: 

Quarterback Andrew Luck might have his practice repetitions increase this week, but he won’t play Monday night against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.

“You could write that. Safe as hell,’’ Pagano said. “He’s out, yeah.’’

Pagano added Luck’s schedule for the week wouldn’t be addressed until a Monday evening meeting with the team’s medical and rehab staffs.

Luck returned to practice for the first time last week. He worked on a limited basis Wednesday and Friday, and was held out of Thursday’s practice.

Geathers update:

Safety Clayton Geathers remains on the physically unable to perform list, but is getting closer to gaining medical clearance to practice for the first time since undergoing surgery in March to repair a bulging disc in his neck.

“I believe he’s a week, maybe two weeks away from getting back on the field,’’ Pagano said.

When Geathers returns, it will be on a limited basis and he’ll wear a red, non-contact jersey.

Pagano insisted he expects Geathers to play at some point this season.

Stat of the day:

After 5 weeks, the Colts lead the league in rushing touchdowns (8) and are last in passing touchdowns (2).