Colts offense regains health in time for Titans rematch
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s been nine games of mixing and matching, plugging in this guy here and that guy there.
The Indianapolis Colts offense, which came into the season with so much anticipation, has searched for its identity because it too often lacked healthy bodies.
When the Colts deal with their latest must-win game – Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium – they’ll do so with their offensive personnel intact and eager. Their starters and top backups should be available for the first time since the season opener.
“Right now we’ve got a lot of guys coming back that are healthy,’’ rookie center Ryan Kelly said Wednesday. “That’s good news for us.
“Every other week we were just playing with somebody new at a different spot.’’
Six offensive front-liners have missed at least one game and five have missed at least two. A fractured scapula sidelined wideout Donte Moncrief for five weeks. Three of the opening-day starters along the offensive line – left guard Jack Mewhort (triceps), right guard Denzelle Good (back) and right tackle Joe Reitz (back and concussion) – have missed time and forced quarterback Andrew Luck to play behind six different starting combinations.
When the Colts whipped the Titans 34-26 last month in Nashville, Luck passed for 353 yards and three touchdowns, T.Y. Hilton caught seven passes for 133 yards and one touchdown and Jack Doyle contributed nine catches for 78 yards, both career highs, and the go-ahead 7-yard touchdown with 1:55 remaining.
It was a crisp, efficient offensive performance, but one missing Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Dwayne Allen and Mewhort.
“I hadn’t thought of that,’’ Luck admitted. “The mindset that we have as players, coaches in this building is – healthy, whatever – we’re playing ball and we know we can go out there and, if we do our best, we’ll have a chance to win.
“It’s great to have everybody healthy. You’ve still got to go out there and make plays against a really good Titans defense.’’
Having the offense intact, offered Dorsett “is going to be kind of fun. It’s something we really haven’t had the whole season. We’re ready to go out there and let it fly.’’
Coordinator Rob Chudzinski has done a creditable job of patching the necessary holes. His offense ranks No. 13 in yards per game (359.9), No. 12 in passing (261.9) and No. 7 in scoring (26.5).
However, the constant changes along the offensive line have contributed to Luck being sacked a league-high 33 times. He’s also been hit on another 68 occasions, according NFL.com.
The offense flashed its potential in the 31-26 win at Green Bay, then headed into its bye week which allowed several players to recover from nagging injuries.
Sunday offers an opportunity to build on the success achieved at the expense of the Packers.
“Green Bay was a great showing and definitely a confidence booster for us in the way we went on the road and were able to execute,’’ Allen said. “Now we get the opportunity at home to do the same thing.
“It’s been unfortunate that it’s taken until week 11 for us all to be healthy and on the field, but that’s the way it is some years. We have the opportunity to be healthy. But it does no good for us all to be healthy if we don’t go out there and do our things.’’
Luck has been chosen the Colts’ recipient of the 2016 Ed Block Courage Award in a vote of his teammates. The award annually recognizes one player from each team for courageous play, and those individuals are honored at a banquet in Baltimore each March.
“It’s a very special thing,’’ Luck said. “When you play a team sport, the respect of your teammates, of your peers, has always been a special part of being on a team. So anytime they recognize for something, I feel like it’s an honor.’’
‘We’d like to be that team:’
While Luck and his teammates are regrouping at halftime Sunday, the Colts will recognize more than 40 individuals from their Super Bowl XLI team.
“I was in high school. I remember watching the game,’’ Luck said. “I think it’s great. This building has an incredible story.
“It’s great for the fans. It’s great for those guys.’’
Perhaps the 10-year anniversary of the world championship will serve as motivation.
“We’d like to be that team 10 years from now, 15 or whatever it is,’’ Luck said.
The ’06 gang’s back:
Although the appearance of a few players remains uncertain, the team expects the following to be on hand: Joseph Addai, Josh Betts, Rocky Boiman, Gary Brackett, Kory Chapman, Dallas Clark, Ryan Diem, Mike Doss, Bryan Fletcher, Dylan Gandy, Matt Giordano, Tarik Glenn, Tyjuan Hagler, Kelvin Hayden, Marlin Jackson, Tim Jennings, Charlie Johnson, Cato June, Freddy Keiaho, Dan Klecko, Ryan LaCasse, Ryan Lilja, Peyton Manning, Rob Morris, Keith O’Neil, Dexter Reid, Darrell Reid, Dominic Rhodes, Jeff Saturday, Bo Schobel, Hunter Smith, Justin Snow, Jim Sorgi, John Standeford, Brandon Stokley, Josh Thomas, Matt Ulrich, Ben Utecht, Reggie Wayne and Terrence Wilkins.
Coaches expected to be on hand include Richard Howell, Gene Huey, Ron Meeks, Pete Metzelaars, Howard Mudd, Mike Murphy, Russ Purnell, John Teerlinck and Jon Torine.
Long time president Bill Polian also will be at the game.
The team is hopeful Marvin Harrison will participate. He and former coach Tony Dungy will receive their Pro Football Hall of Fame rings at the Nov. 24 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dungy’s duties as NBC analyst will keep him from participating in Sunday’s ceremony.