When the Indianapolis Colts traded their 2014 first round pick for Trent Richardson prior to Week 3 of last season, it was supposed to be the move that pushed the team into legit contender status.
But, as we all know, Richardson was–at least in his first season as a Colt–a complete bust. In 14 games with Indy, he averaged fewer than three yards per carry and never ran for more than 64 yards in a single game.
Making matters worse at the running back position, the Colts lost both Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw–two of the league’s more underrated backs–to season-ending injuries before Week 4.
With no Ballard, no Bradshaw, and a useless Richardson, the Colts were almost out of options.
As a last-ditch resort, Indianapolis turned to the fourth running back on the depth chart, little 5’10” Donald Brown out of Connecticut.
And after showing flashes of greatness at times from Week 2 through Week 12–including a 14-carry, 80-yard, two-touchdown performance in a Week 11 win at Tennessee–Brown was finally awarded the starting role in Week 13, when the Colts played host to the Titans.
On 14 carries, he ran for 54 yards and one touchdown, a touchdown that came late in the fourth quarter and extended the Colts lead from just one to eight. And, three weeks later, Brown had perhaps his game of the year at Kansas City. He had twelve touches–ten carries, two receptions–for 110 total yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was the go-ahead score in the second quarter, the other the game-clinching score early in the fourth.
When the Colts were presented with the challenging task of a rematch against the Chiefs in the Wild Card round, Brown again answered the bell. This time, he had 11 carries and four catches for 102 total yards, and as was the case in the Week 16 matchup, he both caught a touchdown pass from Andrew Luck and logged a rushing touchdown. His two scores helped spark a monumental Indianapolis comeback, in which the home team recovered from a 28-point deficit to earn a 45-44 win.
Brown struggled in the Divisional round loss at New England, but his impact on the season was not forgotten. When the Colts were seemingly out of options at running back, it was Donald Brown who came forth and, to some degree, saved the season.