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PRO FOOTBALL : Dickerson Still Has His Hands Full : Former Ram Carries the Ball 35 Times for a Colts' Record

November 09, 1987|BILL PLASHCKE | Times Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — When word of Eric Dickerson's trade from the Rams to the Indianapolis Colts finally reached the Colts a couple of Saturdays ago--isn't the family always the last to know?--the Colts didn't believe it.

"I thought it was a joke," quarterback Jack Trudeau said. "Somebody was playing a Halloween prank or something. I said, 'Until I see this guy walk through our locker room, I'm not believing anything.' "

After Sunday's 16-13 loss to the Chargers, he believes. The team believes. The city of Indianapolis, feeling more than a little bit hoarse and hassled, believes.

This Colts are Dickerson's team now. The Colts will play Dickerson's game.

The Colts can pass, but they will not. The Colts had won four of their first seven games with Albert Bentley at running back, but they no longer can.

And the Colts will ask no questions. They will only be able say things like this, from Trudeau, after he left the field in a bit of a huff:

"Everybody felt that we were getting a little too predictable today."

C'mon. Sometimes Dickerson would run left. Other times, right. Sometimes up the middle. Once in a while he would take a pitch. Predictable?

The Colts' opening drive was two-and-half minutes old before anyone else got to play with the ball.

Dickerson ran the ball after each of the game's first 4 snaps and, after a one-play breather, ran on 7 of the next 10. Then, in the second half, he handled the ball on 14 of the 16 plays in which he participated. But predictable?

"Well, maybe a little," Charger defensive end Joe Phillips said. "I don't know about anybody else, but after a while, I completely forget about rushing the passer. I forgot about the pass. I concentrated only on one thing."

In his second game as a Colt, his first in front of 60,549 home fans, Dickerson carried the ball 35 times, more times than only one other back in the franchise's 31-year history. He carried the ball only one fewer time than everyone else in the game combined.

"He should set a record for carries," Lionel James said. "Didn't he also set a salary record? Isn't that what they are paying him for?"

On those 35 carries, he gained 138 yards. In the first half alone, he gained 103 yards in 24 carries.

But he had no touchdowns. And he laid down a game-costing fumble just as he was scoring the winning score with 4:06 left. And despite several welcoming standing ovations, that's all they will remember.

"It's just something I'm going to have to let ride," said Dickerson in a brief postgame press conference. "I'm sure I'll be doing more than fumbling."

He was asked about whether, carrying the ball so many times, his fumble may have been caused by the law of averages.

"I don't want to use that as an excuse," he said. "It's like saying the quarterback who throws the ball a lot is bound to be intercepted."

He was asked about his scary, one-handed running style.

"If I hold the ball with two hands, that takes away from my running style," he said. "I'm not going to do that."

Before he was asked much more, he was whisked away by the Colts public relations office, who didn't allow any further locker room interviews. You won't find anybody questioning any of this around here, at least not yet.

But it was obvious, once the Chargers figured out he would hog the ball, they figured out, beat him up and you win. They figured right.

"A man can only be hit so hard," Charger defensive coordinator Ron Lynn said. "He's a wonderful player. But we were after him."

It was capped with 12:25 left when Dickerson caught a screen pass and was turned upside down by safety Martin Bayless. While Bayless walked away, Dickerson just lay there. The diagnosis was just a bruised leg, and he missed just the next five plays, but the results were felt the rest of the game.

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