Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dallas Clark is the X Factor

October 1, 2007

By Rick Gosselin

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts are very explosive but very predictable with Pro Bowl wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne on the field.

Harrison lines up at flanker on the right side of the formation and Wayne at split end on the left side – and the Colts dare you to stop them.

But when Harrison left Sunday's game against Denver in the second quarter with a bruised knee, it gave Peyton Manning and the Colts offense license to be creative. And Dallas Clark became the licensee.

Clark caught a game-high six passes and two touchdowns from a variety of different positions as the Colts shellacked the Broncos, 38-20, to remain unbeaten at 4-0.

There are only four remaining unbeatens a month into the season – Indianapolis and New England, which plays tonight, in the AFC and Dallas and Green Bay in the AFC.

With Harrison and Wayne on the field, Clark lines up at either his natural tight end position or the slot. But with Harrison out for the final three quarters, Clark got to line up at both wide receiver spots, both slot positions and tight end.

"It's nice to have a guy that puts a defense in tough situations," Manning said. "He's the X factor."

Clark caught both of his touchdown passes matched against linebacker Ian Gold. The second one came on a 3-yard fade route in the third quarter.

"We've practiced that play for three years in our OTAs [organized team activities] and training camp but never used it in a game," Manning said. "It was nice to see it finally reach fruition."

In addition to Gold, Clark drew cornerback Dre Bly at times. He drew Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey. He drew safety Dominique Foxworth. He drew safety Nick Ferguson.

"If they [defenders] had a number in the 90s, they weren't out there," Clark said. "But I think I saw everyone else. I had no idea who was covering me half the time."

The Broncos tried to jam Clark at the line with Gold. They tried to double-cover him with a linebacker and safety. On his game-long 26-yard go route, he beat the zone coverage of Bailey and Ferguson in the fourth quarter.

"We tried a new formation this week where we wanted to get Bailey and Bly to one side just to see who'd they'd leave over there to cover Dallas," Colts coach Tony Dungy said.

Clark was the Colts' leading receiver last postseason during their Super Bowl run. He has now caught four touchdown passes in the last three weeks. He has never gone to a Pro Bowl. That drought seems likely to end in 2007.

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