INDIANAPOLIS – As Marlon Mack came around right end late in the fourth quarter Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, a freight train cleared the way in front of him.
Pulling from his left guard spot, Quenton Nelson got in front of the play and sized up Atlanta Falcons rookie cornerback Isaiah Oliver.
The 6-foot, 210-pound defender quickly determined he wanted no part of the Indianapolis Colts’ resident bully and dropped to the ground as Nelson bulldozed over him.
Mack sprinted 26 yards for a first down at Atlanta’s 33-yard line that began to ice the Colts’ 27-24 victory, their first in a home opener since 2013.
“I took two jab steps forward, trying to sell inside zone and get the linebacker to bite,” Nelson explained. “And then I pulled around to the outside, and really the whole offensive line and the tight ends did a great job of washing all that down. And then I pulled around and there was one guy there and (I) took him on.”
Nelson was asked if Oliver made a business decision during the one-on-one battle.
“Yeah,” he said. “Probably a smart one.”
Indianapolis wide receiver T.Y. Hilton agrees.
He was watching the play develop from the sideline and felt a pang of sympathy for the rookie. Hilton’s seen the damage Nelson can do first-hand.
On plenty of occasions.
“It was a corner out there, (No.) 26,” Hilton said. “So I kind of felt bad for him. Cause Q don’t mess around.”
The play call was installed very recently in the offense, and it’s designed to take advantage of Nelson’s extreme athleticism. As physical as the all-pro offensive lineman can be, he can also move.
And pulling him to the right side with 2:36 remaining in the fourth quarter Sunday further took advantage of a tiring Atlanta defense.
With the Falcons stacking the box and daring quarterback Jacoby Brissett to beat them through the air, the Colts rushed for just 79 yards on 24 carries. But Mack accounted for 74 of them, and the running game was there again at the end when Indianapolis needed it most.
It was a far cry from the 203 yards the Colts rushed for in the opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. But it was enough to get the job done Sunday.
“Week 1 was a crazy performance, but with the run game in the NFL, people adapt and things change,” Mack said. “You always gotta be patient with the run game, and that’s what we do, man. That’s what we do here well. Be patient with it, and things will go well for you.”
VINNY GETS HIS GROOVE BACK
After two weeks of unparalleled struggles, veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri was met by a warm ovation from the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd every time he took the field against the Falcons.
He responded by making all five of his kicks – three extra points and first-half field goals from 49 and 21 yards – in a three-point victory.
There was a little drama on the 49-yarder, which bounced in after caroming off the goal post.
The Colts brought six kickers in for a tryout last week, but the future Hall of Famer said that’s just the price of doing business in the NFL.
“If you’re not doing your job well, they need to find other things,” Vinatieri said. “I didn’t think about it too terribly much one way or another. It’s all about me doing my job well, you know what I mean? If you don’t do your job, it speaks for itself.”
HOME SWEET HOME
There were plenty of empty seats in the upper reaches of the stadium, but the 60,295 fans on hand let their voices be heard throughout Sunday’s victory.
There were loud roars for every positive play, and a nearly deafening ovation as the Colts left the field.
It certainly was felt on the sideline.
“It was amazing,” Mack said. “I love home fans, man. Being on the road two weeks straight (to open the season), it’s the craziest feeling. But we finally got home and get a ‘W’ in front of our fans.”
Defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis left the game with an ankle injury and was sporting a boot after the contest.
Hilton also left the game after re-aggravating his quad injury. But he remained on the sideline during the second half and didn’t seem overly concerned in the postgame locker room.
“Go get my helmet. Get my helmet, man. Let me get back out there and seal the deal,” Hilton said of his thoughts as Atlanta rallied in the second half. “But the guys know. Before they went out there, I talked to them. The long drive that they had, I talked to them.
“Just kept them up, kept them going, and they went out there and delivered. Four-minute drive. Last week against Tennessee, we kind of gave them the ball back. So this week we wanted to finish with the ball, and that’s what we did.”