Colts play better when Gore gets the ball

Besides a couple of costly goal line fumbles early this season, Frank Gore has run the football very effectively in his first season with the Indianapolis Colts. The 32-year-old running back is averaging 4.6 yards a carry. That's better than his career average (4.5) over 11 seasons. 

But Gore is also on pace for the fewest carries since his rookie season. Nine times in his career Gore has run for over 200 times in a season. Eight times he has run for over 1,000 yards. Gore has run 98 times for 446 yards and three touchdowns this season. He carried the ball just nine times in Sunday's loss to the Saints.

"I understand the big picture of everything," said Gore after practice Wednesday. "I've been in this league 11 years now. I know some games dictate how the game is going. That's how I know how the (running back) will be able to play. Last week the game was out of hand early, so we had to play catch up and try to get quick scores."

The Colts have trailed in every game but one (at Houston) this season. Playing catch up is quicker with passing offense. Even so, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano says Gore must get more carries.

"We all know that he's a dynamic guy in our offense," says Pagano. "He's averaging 4-5 (yards) a carry. We all know when he carries the ball X amount of times our win-loss record is what it is. Regardless of what the score is, we've got to stay with the run. We can't totally abandon the run game. I think everybody understands that."

But after falling behind in most games, the Colts have relied on the arm of Andrew Luck. The Colts' quarterback is struggling, with nine interceptions and a quarterback rating (76.3) and completion percentage (56.2 percent) down among the worst of NFL starting quarterbacks. More carries from Gore could relieve some of the offensive burden on Luck.  

The Colts generally play better the more Gore runs the football. His best and busiest game was also the Colts best, when Gore ran 22 times for 98 yards in a win at Houston. Gore ran 14 times for 86 yards in a win at Tennessee. The Colts have not had a 100-yard rusher in the last 47 games.

"I think we're doing a great job," said Gore. "I think as a whole on the ground we're taking steps the right way. We just have to keep going to get better. I think we will."

Gore is the NFL's active leader in career carries (2,540) and rushing yards (11,519). He has started 67 consecutive games, the longest streak among active running backs. The Colts want to protect the veteran from overuse and preserve his legs for late in the season. The team recently signed Ahmad Bradshaw to provide depth at running back. The Colts want to find a winning balance that allows Gore to get more work than he has so far without wearing down their workhorse. 

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