Colts offensive identity in 2014? “Flexible”

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The Colts' offense sets before a play against the Jaguars on September 21st.

INDIANAPOLIS – During his news conference last week, Pep Hamilton gave a pretty general answer to a specific question.

What is the Colts’ offensive identity?

“It’s whatever we have to do from week to week to effectively move the football,” said the Colts’ offensive coordinator when asked that question on Thursday.

Six days later, Chuck Pagano tried to give a little more specific answer. Just a little-and he enlisted help.

“How would you describe it,” asked the Colts’ coach when asked if the team’s offensive identity changes from week-to-week.

The reporter responded with “Flexible.”

“I like that,” responded Pagano. “I’m going to ride with that because that probably kind of leaves the opponent guessing a little bit, right? I like it. Whatever we’ve got to do to win a football game.

“End of the day, I don’t care by how many, just get the W.”

Right now it’s got them one-a dominating victory over the Jaguars Sunday and has kept them competitive in two others featuring a pair of the league’s best teams. Their 31.7 points per game and 426 yards of total offense are both good enough for third in the NFL yet it has been hard to define just what this Colts offense is.

There’s not a tendency to throw nor run, with the team running more in one contest and passing more in two others. Flexibility, in a season, is at the moment a singular description of this unit.

“Being a receiver we want to throw that ball every play. But you know, that’s the nature of the game and you’ve got to be balanced,” said receiver Hakeem Nicks when asked if flexibility is a desired identity for an offense. “You’ve got to be able to do both. You’ve got to be able to run the ball in order to throw the ball because eventually late in the season they’re going to start keying in on what you do and what you do best.

“You’ve got to have an even game plan.”

Right now that’s really happened in just one game, the second contest against the Eagles. With a hope to keep Philadelphia’s fast-paced offense in check the Colts rushed the ball 38 times while passing 34 and the plan worked as the Colts led most of the game until turnovers proved their undoing.

Against Denver in the opener a major deficit skewed the team’s hopes for a rushing attack as quarterback Andrew Luck threw 54 times and handed the ball off just 14. Quick success against the Jaguars threw the air also led to more passing as the Colts aired it out 43 times while rushing it 29.

One might say with Luck the Colts identity should be throwing considering the quarterback threw for over 8,000 yards his first two seasons and already has 912 this season. But Hamilton has preached the run since joining the Colts in 2013 and has even employed three tight end sets to help do that along with set up the play action pass.

“We can open it up a lot. We can go over the top, we’ve got a lot of weapons out wide at the receiver position,” said running back Ahmad Bradshaw. “Andrew (Luck), he just makes a lot of plays happen. I think it’s opened the running game up a whole lot. It’s kept the defenses honest, the safeties deeper and it helps us to see the holes a lot better.”

While flexibility has worked, Luck himself hopes that the team will establish somewhat of a core identity over the next 13 games.

“I do think there’s things that we want to be able to hang our hat on and come back and say, ‘Hey, we’ll run the ball well, we’ll take care of  the football,’ that’s always something,” said Luck. “I do think we have the ability with the guys in this room to be able to attack teams differently if we need to do.

“You’d love the identity to find a way to win no matter what and that’s what we’ll shoot for.”

For now, though, “Flexible” is a fit.