INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Frank Gore provided a nifty stiff-arm to those who piled on the Indianapolis Colts’ non-running game in Saturday’s preseason opener at Buffalo.
“We’ll be fine,’’ he said Monday.
But running backs rushed 19 times for 10 yards, with a long of 4.
“We’ve just gotta keep working, look at the mistakes we made,’’ Gore said. “Just clean it up and move on.’’
Heading into Saturday night’s preseason test against the Baltimore Ravens in Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts rank last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (23) and per attempt (1.3). Yes, it’s an extremely small sample size, but it’s underwhelming nonetheless.
Is there merit in dwelling on the sorry preseason numbers for a team that has been committed to improving a running game that a year ago ranked No. 29 in yards per game (89.9) and No. 31 in yards per attempt (3.6)?
“No, no,’’ Gore said. “You’re not game-planning for different looks.’’
And in most instances, your starting quarterback (Andrew Luck) isn’t handing off to your feature back (Gore).
That should change against the Ravens.
Luck is expected to see his first action of the preseason after Pagano chose to keep him out of the Bills game, and Gore hopes to play.
“I think I’m going to play this week,’’ Gore said.
That would be in keeping with how the coaching staff used him last preseason, his first with the team. Gore saw his only action in Game 2 against the Chicago Bears, taking four reps and handling two carries for 10 yards.
Gore, 33 and in his 12th season, isn’t lobbying for a heavy workload, just enough to reacquaint himself with full-speed contact.
“Once you get up in age,’’ he said, “I feel like all my stuff (needs) to count now. I want it to count.
“But you also want to go out there and get a couple of plays with the O-line, with guys like T.Y. (Hilton), 12 (Luck). You know, get that feeling. I want to get hit, go to the ground once or twice.
“Then, just build from there. We’re going to be fine.’’
Perhaps, but the Colts offered no evidence of that against Buffalo. Their leading rusher was third-string quarterback Stephen Morris, who scrambled three times for 12 yards. Rookie back Josh Ferguson rushed eight times for 3 yards.
Coach Chuck Pagano repeatedly has mentioned the team’s commitment to a better ground game this season, and pointed to its approach in practice.
“We push these guys harder than they’ve ever been pushed since we’ve been here,’’ he said. “This has been a tough, tough camp.
“I don’t know what to tell you other than we’re going to keep working, we’re going to keep grinding. I don’t have a crystal ball. I know what it should look like, you know what it should look like and that’s what we’re hoping for.’’
Considering how few preseason reps Gore is expected to see in preparation for the Sept. 11 opener against the Detroit Lions, it’s anyone’s guess whether the raw numbers will reflect any improvement.
But that’s generally been the case through the years. Since 1999, the Colts have ranked 26th or worse in rushing 11 times during the preseason, and ranking dead last on five occasions.
Keep in mind, he’s motivated to put what was perceived by so many to be a subpar 2015 behind him. He finished ninth in the NFL in rushing, but fell agonizingly short of his ninth career 1,000-yard season (967 yards) and finished with a career-low 3.7 per-carry average.
“The preseason is all about learning and trying to get better,’’ he said. “We’ll be fine.
“When the time comes, we’ll be ready.’’