INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It takes a pancaker to know a pancaker.
Sunday, Quenton Nelson, the brutish guard with a highlight video of defender-flattening blocks gleaned from his decorated career at Notre Dame, welcomed Ryan Grant, the Indianapolis Colts’ lithe guard, to his neighborhood.
“We were all pretty hyped for Ryan,’’ Nelson said Tuesday.
The entire Colts offense saw it. How could they not as coordinator Nick Sirianni held a video session to point out the good (tons) and bad (some) from the 21-9 road win over the Washington Redskins?
There were highlights galore, but all might have lined up behind a third-and-12 Andrew Luck faced at his own 3-yard line on the final play of the first quarter. Luck sent three receivers to his left in a bunch formation: T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers and Grant. At the snap, Hilton took a quick step back, grabbed Luck’s bubble-screen pass and headed up the left sideline.
Offensive linemen peeled to the left to offer an escort service, but one already was being provided by Grant and Rogers. Rogers stoned cornerback Fabian Moreau. Grant drove corner Quinton Dunbar onto his back.
He pancaked him.
“We watched it as an offense and everybody was juiced up for him,’’ said Nelson, who seems to have added a pancake or two on his resume in each of his first two NFL games. “It’s awesome.
“Cornerbacks don’t want to deal with that. They just want you to cover them. I’m on offensive lineman, but I would think that would put an extra thought into the corner’s head that, ‘Hey, I’d better be careful when this guy’s running full speed at me cause he could just run past me or block me.’’’
Obviously, Grant and Rogers did the latter. The result: a 22-yard gain and critical third-down conversion for Hilton. The drive would end a few plays later when Luck suffered an interception on a tipped pass, but the statement had been made: the Colts’ receivers aren’t one-trick ponies.
“Weren’t they great on that?’’ Sirianni beamed. “I think (position coach) Kevin Patullo just really challenges our wide receivers to get their nose dirty and block.’’
There was an added emphasis on running the football against the Redskins, and that included a plea to the receivers, according to Sirianni.
Hey, wideouts, we need you. We need you to get physical and get mean and get nasty and like these offensive linemen and block.
“They really stepped up to the plate,’’ Sirianni said.
On Hilton’s 22-yarder, he added, Grant and Rogers “were just animals. It was awesome.’’
“Great blocks,’’ Hilton said with a smile. “Ryan pancaked the guy. Absolutely we take pride in that. Some receivers block, some receivers don’t.
“We made a group effort that we’re going to sell out for each other, especially when a running back’s got the ball. They’re selling out for us in the pass game when they’re picking up the blitz. Just returning the favor.’’
Does Hilton believe he would have been able to squirm for the necessary yardage had it not been for the blocks by his colleagues?
“Absolutely not,’’ he said. “Probably would go for 10 or 12. But Ryan pancaking the guy and Chester getting the chop block sprung me for 10 more.’’
Grant, one of general manager Chris Ballard’s offseason free-agent acquisitions, has taken pride in his blocking ability since his high school days in Beaumont, Tex.
“My coaches would preach blocking on plays,’’ he said. “It’s a part of the game. It’s part of football.’’
And it’s obvious the Colts want that to be part of their offense. A receiver getting in the face of a corner or safety might be the difference in a 5-yard run by rookie Jordan Wilkins, or a 15-yarder. Or it could be the difference in Hilton picking up a first down, or the Colts punting from deep in their own territory while nursing a 7-0 lead.
Not to be outdone, tight end Jack Doyle stepped up and reminded everyone you don’t have to be an offensive lineman to impact the running game. Cue up rookie Nyheim Hines’ 8-yard touchdown in the second quarter and you’ll notice Doyle lined up to the right of right tackle Joe Haeg, one yard back.
At the snap, Haeg negated linebacker Ryan Anderson, wideout Kyle Pascal fenced off Moreau and center Ryan Kelly flatted another defender at the point of attack. Doyle? He swept in from the right and took care of tackle Ziggy Hood.
Hines sidestepped a defender in the hole and dove in for his first career TD.
Coach Frank Reich noted Doyle was “a big part of the success that we did have in the run game and Jack is just a really good football player.’’
“It’s awesome watching film,’’ Nelson said. “It’s just not the O-line blocking. It’s the tight ends and the wide receivers running to the safety and getting a crack-back on them or blocking the corner.
“It’s awesome to see everyone doing their role and making this offense successful. You want your wide receivers and tight ends to block, too, and take pride in doing it. It’s definitely not just the offensive line.’’