Our primary takeaway from Thursday's comeback victory is that a resurgent Donald Brown has to take the backfield reins from Trent Richardson if the Indianapolis Colts are going to make any noise in the postseason.
Although coach Chuck Pagano was careful to show unwavering public support for a lackluster Richardson, he acknowledged Friday that he is adopting a "hot hand" approach with a backfield rotation.
"Donald had an exceptional football game," Pagano said. "He is playing really well, running hard, hitting the hole, (gaining) yards after contact."
Averaging a full 3.0 yards per carry more than Richardson this season, Brown has emerged as the lead back even if Pagano is unwilling to concede the Colts' mistake in acquiring Richardson.
"Richardson is making the right reads, hitting the right hole," Pagano added. "His numbers will come. I'm not worried about that. ... He's a damn good player and a damn good back. We're going to stay patient."
Asked about the discrepancy in production between the two backs, Pagano offered that there is more defensive penetration on Richardson's runs "for whatever reason."
We have a good idea about that reason. Whereas Brown has learned how to "press the hole," Richardson has been been hesitant at the line of scrimmage, lacking vision and failing to trust his blocks. Brown has shown explosion and burst. Richardson has not.
Actions speak louder than words, though. Richardson had one carry at halftime Thursday night. He was either on the sideline or used as a decoy on the most important drive of the game.
Until we see evidence to the contrary, Brown has overtaken Richardson in the backfield pecking order.