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December 31, 2012

Karim helps Colts head full speed into playoffs

INDIANAPOLIS — Deji Karim quickly accelerated as the seam suddenly appeared in front of him.

The back-up running back was working as a valet, parking cars at a hotel, before he was re-signed by the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 11.

On Sunday, with the Colts trailing the Houston Texans for the first time all game, Karim resembled one of the dragsters that greets fans as they enter the main gate at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Southern Illinois product ran forward on a straight line, rapidly pulling away from the entire Texans’ coverage team. When he stopped 101 yards later, the only thing missing was a parachute popping from the back of his jersey to slow him down as he entered the end zone.

Karim’s return was the longest in the franchise’s Indianapolis history and tied for fourth in team annals overall. The late third-quarter score also gave the Colts (11-5) a lead they never relinquished in a 28-16 upset of the Texans (12-4).

“All week we had been preaching it,” Karim said. “[Marwan Maalouf], the special teams coordinator, had been telling us we were going to get one and just to prepare for it. We ran the return, and it just split open. I mean, I’ve got to give all the credit to all my blockers on kickoff return. They got the job done.

“They’ve been doing it every week, and I kept telling them over and over again that we were going to get this. They stayed patient with me, opened it up for me and I just took it for six. It’s all a credit to them.”

Karim’s return halted Houston’s short-lived momentum, after the Texans had taken the lead for the only time.

“It’s great to see Deji Karim coming in and house call, 101-yard kickoff return,” QB Andrew Luck said. “That’s so uplifting for a team.”

Karim was one of several late-season additions who made big plays for Indianapolis on Sunday.

With two starters — nose tackle Anthony Johnson and defensive end Cory Redding — missing along the defensive line, the Colts still managed to hold running back Arian Foster to 96 yards — nearly 70 fewer than he’d gained in a win two weeks ago in Houston — and sack quarterback Matt Schaub four times.

Three of those sacks came from players named Clifton Geathers, Lawrence nGuy and Jamaal Westerman who were street free agents — like Karim — earlier this season.

“Threw a sack party,” outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. “I was kind of mad I wasn’t invited to it, but I’m just happy to see the guys have fun and get the win.”

Not all the team’s familiar faces were shut out.

Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney picked up his fifth sack of the season in what might have been the final home game of his storied Indianapolis career. Freeney will be a free agent after the season, and the team has given little indication about his future.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Freeney said. “If that was it, it’s been a great ride in this building. We will worry about that when it’s time to worry about that.”

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