The Indianapolis Colts ran the ball 40 times in their message-sending win over the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago, and they'll have to employ a similar style of old-school football to upset the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5.
Nothing against Andrew Luck's passing attack, but with offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton calling the shots, the Colts are all about running the football with a variety of traps, counters and lead-blocked runs from jumbo formations with some play-action passes sprinkled in.
Let's examine why Indianapolis must "stay Stanford" to beat the Seahawks.
Seattle's Stingy Secondary
Everyone knows the Seahawks secondary is nasty, stingy, and simply harder to complete passes against than most secondaries.
Richard Sherman is sure to remind us how good he and his defensive backfield mates are during the week, then the aptly nicknamed "Legion of Boom" backs up Sherman's bravado.
In their first four wins of the season, the Seahawks have allowed a 191 yards per game and have held opposing quarterbacks to at 60.7 rating, the lowest in the NFL.
Quarterback Andrew Luck is the best Colts player, and as the franchise foundation, he should be leaned on in big games.
However, against arguably the best secondary in football, Indianapolis must rely on Richardson and the running game.
The Colts have won both games since the blockbuster trade in which they acquired Richardson from the Cleveland Browns for a first-round pick.
In those two victories, Richardson has carried the ball 33 times for 98 yards.
That's not good.
He's scored a pair of touchdowns—one in each contest—but a yards-per-carry average of 2.96 is not acceptable, especially considering what Indianapolis surrendered to acquire the running back.
With Ahmad Bradshaw nursing a neck injury, there's a chance Chuck Pagano's team will have to lean on Richardson, their shiny new offensive toy, and it's time for him to live up to the billing.
Colts offensive coordinator—Stanford's offensive coordinator in 2011 and 2012—Pep Hamilton has gone back to his collegiate roots with his NFL gig.
Indianapolis has gone from a field-stretching, pass-heavy offense to a rather traditional run-predicated system.
Here's a comparison of the Colts' attack in 2012 and 2013:
|RB Rushes Per Game||Yards Per Carry||Luck's Passes Per Game||Luck's Completion %||Games With More Than 30 Minutes of Possession|
|2012 Colts||22.8||3.77||39.1||54.1||10 of 16|
|2013 Colts||25.7||4.5||32||64.0||3 of 4|
It's been Stanfordized.
Take a look:
|RB Rushes Per Game||Yards Per Carry||Luck's Passes Per Game||Luck's Completion %|
Indianapolis probably wouldn't have traded for Richardson had it been operating the vertical passing system of a season ago. They likely wouldn't have selected guard Hugh Thornton from Illinois in Round 3 and center Khaled Holmes from USC in Round 4 of the 2013 draft.
Don't forget about the free-agency acquisition of tackle Gosder Cherilus, either.
With Hamilton as the play-caller, Indianapolis is building the Stanford offense.
It's time to prominently feature the player for which the Colts traded a first-round pick.
Seattle's Run Defense
With mammoth defensive linemen Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant and linebacker Bobby Wagner, Seattle wouldn't appear to be the easiest team to run against.
That hasn't been the case over the last 20 regular-season games.
In 2012, the Seahawks allowed 1,648 on 368 carries, which equaled out to a 4.5 yards-per-carry average.
Thus far in 2013, Seattle's given up 4.1 yards per carry.
The Seahawks don't have a bad run defense, but it's certainly more vulnerable than their secondary.
Based on the way the Colts have been constructed and the Seahawks' defensive strengths and weaknesses, Indianapolis must get a big day from Trent Richardson to move to 4-1.