Sunday, January 21, 2007

Clark is a key to Colts' offense

By Rich Garven
January 21, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS— The Colts lost four games this season, three of them when tight end Dallas Clark was sidelined.

For all the talk about what safety Bob Sanders means to the defense, it’s abundantly clear Clark is every bit as important to the Peyton Manning-led offense as Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai.

The Patriots will get a second firsthand look at Clark tonight when they take on the Colts for the AFC Championship.

“Dallas makes a difference for us because he’s so versatile,” coach Tony Dungy said. “He can do a lot of things. We can have him in the lineup and play a three-wide receiver type of game or a two-tight end type of game. He can catch the ball and block at the point of attack. He helps us tremendously.”

Clark missed four games in December because of a knee injury. The Colts lost to division rivals Tennessee, Jacksonville and Houston in his absence.

This season, Clark returned in Week 17 to catch four passes for 56 yards against Miami. He was immense in the wild-card win over Kansas City, collecting a career-high nine receptions for 109 yards.

The 6-foot-3, 252-pound Clark had two receptions for 41 yards last week against Baltimore. He leads the Colts with 11 postseason receptions and is averaging a healthy 13 yards a catch

Of Clark’s 30 receptions during the season, eight went for at least 23 yards. He has caught passes of 21 and 27 yards in the playoffs..

Those are playmaker numbers, not that Clark considers himself to be one.

“I’d like to be involved in the game plan and just making some plays out there and helping the team move the chains, score points, whatever,” he said. “So, it would definitely be a fun situation, but a difference-maker? I don’t know. I’m just excited to be healthy and being able to play in this game.”

The Patriots have had their problems in the past covering tight ends. Keeping Clark under wraps is definitely one of their goals tonight.

“One of the missions is trying to stop that guy right there,” defensive end Ty Warren said. “I mean he’s an awesome player. He’s very athletic. He’s almost like another receiver out there in a sense, the way he runs his routes and gets open and catches the ball and runs after the catch.”

Clark caught two passes for 35 yards in a 27-20 win over the Patriots in November.

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