By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
Edgerrin James once joked he didn't feel the need to shower after a 2004 shootout between the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers in which Peyton Manning and Brett Favre combined for nine touchdown passes.
The running back reasoned he'd touched the football so seldom, he hadn't even broken a sweat.
Indianapolis' entire offense could be forgiven for feeling that way after Sunday's 21-17 escape against the Oakland Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts got just seven possessions in the contest, excluding a pair of kneel downs to clinch the game in the final 25 seconds.
"It's usually 12 to 13," Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano said. "We wanted more. We got to do, part of that is us."
The Colts defense forced a pair of turnovers, but the Raiders punted only twice in the contest. That was due in large part to third-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who gave Indianapolis fits in just his second career start.
Pryor was 19-of-29 for 217 yards and one touchdown passing, and he rushed 13 times for 112 yards. The latter figure was an Oakland record for the quarterback position and the most ever allowed by a passer against the Colts.
It raises a red flag for a road trip in two weeks against the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers and versatile quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Indianapolis also hosts the Seattle Seahawks and duel-threat quarterback Russell Wilson on Oct. 6.
Pagano chooses instead to look at the upside. The Colts survived their first encounter with the NFL's new breed of signal-caller and will be better prepared for the next.
"That thing very easily could've went the other way," he said. "But that speaks to the character and resiliency of this football team. There is no quit, and that's why we always talk about playing 60 minutes. We're worried about Miami (visiting this week). We know what's coming down the pike. Certainly, we'll learn from this. It'll be a great lesson for us. Great thing to study from for future ball games."
The irony, of course, is that Sunday's game was won on a running play by Pagano's own quarterback.
When Andrew Luck dropped back to pass on third-and-4 from Oakland's 19-yard line late in the fourth quarter, his first read was veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne. He had eight catches for 96 yards, and the Raiders were smartly double-covering him.
So Luck turned to his second read — tight end Coby Fleener — but he also was covered.
With an expanse of green grass ahead of him, Luck gambled he'd pick up at least enough yardage for the first down on a scramble. When wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey cut off his route and threw a block downfield, the path was cleared for Luck into the end zone.
The quarterback said there currently are no designed runs for him in the Indianapolis playbook. He scrambled six times for 38 yards against the Raiders, but each one was based on the particular situation.
"I don't think it's necessarily a strong suit, but I've always been taught going back to college, even high school, if you can get a first down with your legs as a quarterback, that can be a good thing," Luck said. "It can be somewhat demoralizing for a defense in a sense. If you can break a tackle or maybe sidestep something and get the ball out to a receiver, that makes a difference."
For Luck to make that difference, he first has to have the ball in his hands.
The Colts ran just 53 plays Sunday, a total matched in the first half by the Philadelphia Eagles in Chip Kelly's high-paced attack on Monday night.
That didn't give the offense much time to find a rhythm.
Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wants a balanced attack, and the Colts ran the ball 26 times against Oakland. Counting four sacks, Luck dropped back to pass 27 times.
True to his nature, the only numbers the quarterback truly was interested in were on the scoreboard.
"It was a very, very short game in that sense," Luck said of the offense's lack of snaps. "I thought we ran the ball effectively, threw it effectively. At the end of the day, it's about winning as well. We'll do whatever it takes to win ball games."