With an eye on getting “revenge” on the Houston Texans in a crucial Monday Night Football AFC South grudge match at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts (4-2) are dealing with a slue of injuries. Right now it is “Next Man Up” time in Indy and superstar quarterback Peyton Manning has to be looking around the team’s lockerroom and saying, “Who are these guys?”
There is no doubt that injuries are a huge part of life in the NFL. Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles have suffered 6 concussions on their roster in 2010 and the Packers also have resembled a M*A*S*H unit at times – lost franchise RB Ryan Grant in Week 1 and it was downhill from there in terms of injuries. But after seven weeks of play, the Colts should be crying more about the “injury bug” more than probably any other NFL team.
Here is a list of some of the injuries and to say the least many of the players listed were considered core team members when the season started. TE Dallas Clark (Wrist – I/R), WR Austin Collie (right thumb injury – 4 to 6 Weeks), RB Joseph Addai (Shoulder – Indefinite), Safety / Special teams co-captain Melvin Bullitt (knee – I/R), safety Bob Sanders (bicep – indefinite), OT Charles Johnson (foot – questionable), LB WR Anthony Gonzalez (ankle – should be back for WK8), RB Donald Brown (hamstring – should be back for WK8), rookie LB Kavell Conner (foot – I/R), and too many others for GM Bill Polian and Caldwell’s liking – had 18 players listed on their Week 5 Injury Report.
And to make matters worse for their in Week 8 game, punter/kickoff specialist Pat McAfee will be serving a team-mandated 1-game suspension resulting from his Oct. 20 arrest on a public intoxication incident. Free agent Jeremy Kapinos, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, will step in this week to do the punting duties and veteran Adam Vinateri will handle the kickoff duties.
Colts’ head coach Jim Caldwell said of the team’s many injuries, “I call it the ‘Gideon Principle’ in this league.” He added, “At some point in time, you get pared down to the absolute bare minimum. So you see who can stand tall and who can function in their present circumstances.”
So far this season, Manning (passing numbers 171-254, 1916 yards, 67.3%, 13 TDs, 2 INTs, and a rating of 103.4) has looked like he is in the running for an NFL-record 5th MVP award. But now he will need non-household players like TE Jacob Tamme, TE Blair White and RB Mike Hart to help out in the starting line-up. The Colts’ 2nd teams will also have to help out wherever the coaches need their services including special teams injured starters. Even former Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea has been called upon to help out on special teams as the Colts need help from everyone.
The Colts will surely be looking to show not only the AFC South, but the entire league that after a bye week, they are ready to put up more of a fight against the surging Texans (4-2). In Week 1, the Texans out-physicaled the Colts in a dominating home victory — improved to 2-15 all-time vs. Indianapolis. The breakout star of the game was unheralded, at the time, running back Arian Foster who rushed the ball 33 times for 231 yards and three touchdowns. Houston out-rushed Indy 257-44, setting a franchise record for most rushing yards in Texans’ franchise history and most rushing yards allowed in Colts’ franchise history.
Texans QB Matt Schaub only had to throw 17 times as Houston dominated up front. The one bright spot for the Colts from their Week 1 loss was that they were able to move the ball against the Texans’ defense. Despite poor O-line play at times, penalties, and dropped passes, Indianapolis put up 463 total yards and on their last three drives of the game showed that they were coming back after being down 20-10 after three quarters.
Produced two touchdowns and another drive where WR Pierre Garcon fumbled inside the Texans’ 10. We will see this time if Manning and his crew can overcome the Texans attacking defense – Houston will be without LB DeMeco Ryans (Achilles – I/R) – to get a playoff implication win.
Caldwell said of the challenge of playing through so many injuries, “My job is to win, plain and simple… I have to deal with the here and now, what we have to play with. The guys we have, have plenty of talent. We have more than enough to get it done.”
The biggest keys for the Colts, in my opinion, will be their ability to run the ball with Hart and company – ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing at only 94.8 yards per game – and stopping the run on defense (ranked 26th as Indy has allowed an average of 137.3 yards per game).
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)