Marlon Mack

Colts running back Marlon Mack scores late in the third quarter against the Giants on Dec. 23 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mack rushed for a franchise playoff-record 148 yards last week against the Texans.

INDIANAPOLIS — It's probably the most often replayed clip from Saturday's AFC Wild Card victory. At least from a social media standpoint.

Quenton Nelson locked onto Jadeveon Clowney and immediately pushed the Texans defensive end back. Then he took Clowney laterally across the field and out of the play.

The clip ends with Nelson driving Clowney into the turf as an exclamation point.

The highlight has been used as further justification for the Colts' decision to draft the left guard with the sixth overall pick last spring. And it's a glaring example of the way in which this franchise has changed.

That comeback from a 1-5 start to a date in this weekend's divisional round with top-seeded Kansas City (12-4)? It starts with the men up front.

The offensive line paved the way for 200 rushing yards in a 21-7 win last week at Houston, and Andrew Luck wasn't sacked. That's the seventh game in a row the quarterback has remained upright with this starting five — left tackle Anthony Castonzo, Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Mark Glowinski and right tackle Braden Smith.

All of which has given rise to a theory that Indianapolis (11-6) might be best suited to play it conservative Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium. Run the ball, milk the clock and keep the high-scoring Chiefs offense watching from the sideline.

But things are seldom so black-and-white in Frank Reich's world.

The Colts' first-year head coach takes pride in his multiple offense and its ability to win games in several different ways. So he's not about to lock himself in to any single strategy for the biggest game of the year.

“We are trying to score every time we touch the ball, and we are going to game plan and call the game in a way to score points,” Reich said. “We are really not trying to think so much about, ‘Well, let's hold the ball and keep it from them.’

“We want to run it. There’s no secret about that. That does keep them off the field. That would be great, but at the end of the day the primary goal is to score points.”

The versatility of the offense could come in handy in another way.

There's snow in the forecast for Kansas City. A 60 percent chance for the day as a whole, and a 90 percent likelihood at 4 p.m. — 35 minutes prior to the scheduled kickoff.

Accumulation up to an inch is possible, and that could be enough to take some of the speed out of the game.

Then it could again come down to Nelson and his bully brothers on the line.

They cleared the way for a franchise postseason-record 148 rushing yards by Marlon Mack against the Texans. And the consistent pounding the running game delivered began to pay dividends in the fourth quarter.

Mack had consecutive carries of 15 and 26 yards as Indianapolis ran the final 4:09 off the clock to close out the game.

“I think he’s really matured as a running back,” quarterback Andrew Luck said. “He’s doing the little things really well, whether it’s in pass protection or setting up his blockers or toting the rock, taking care of the football. He’s turning into a complete back, and he’s running hard.

“... At the end of the game this past weekend, to bust a couple of those long ones — that really felt good. I think it was a testament certainly to him and also to the guys up front blocking.”

Conventional wisdom suggests that's the key in inclement weather. Pound the rock. Impose your will. Win at the line of scrimmage.

In truth, that's the key to football period.

Even the most prolific passing offenses must consistently win up front. If the quarterback is not protected, no offense can succeed for very long.

So it circles back to Reich's original message.

No matter the weather, no matter the skill of the opposing offense, no matter the venue, the Colts must focus on what they do best.

“You always think about how you are going to win the game as a team,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. “I really believe that it’s our job to go out there and score as many points as we possibly can. If that’s passing it, if that’s running it, we got to score, and that’s always our goal is to go out there and score.”


Safety Mike Mitchell was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, and safety Rolan Milligan was called up from the practice squad to take his place. Veteran J.J. Wilcox, who previously spent time with defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus in Dallas and played extensively in the final two games of the regular season, likely will replace Mitchell in sub packages.

Defensive lineman Denico Autry (shoulder), wide receiver Ryan Grant (toe), safety Malik Hooker (foot) and defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Neither did wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (ankle), but his availability for Saturday's game is not in doubt.

Tight end Eric Ebron (hip), wide receiver Dontrelle Inman (finger/shoulder) and defensive end Jabaal Sheard (knee) were limited.

Safety Clayton Geathers (knee), linebacker Darius Leonard (shoulder/ankle) and Wilcox (ankle) were full participants.

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