INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts were a battered bunch heading into Thursday night’s meeting with the Broncos in Denver.
It only got worse.
En route to a 12-9 overtime win, the Colts lost running back Nyheim Hines (concussion), Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly (hip), defensive end Kwity Paye (ankle) and wide receiver Ashton Dulin (foot).
The injuries to Hines and Paye were most distressing.
Hines started in place of Jonathan Taylor, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and the first three plays were directed at him. After dropping Matt Ryan’s first pass, he notched a 3-yard run. On 3rd-and-7, Hines caught a short pass from and while engaged with a couple of Denver was hit from behind by linebacker Nik Bonitto. His head slammed on the turf.
Hines got to his feet, but nearly stumbled to the ground on a couple of occasions. Offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Bernhard Raimann came to his aid, as did individuals from the Denver sideline.
He was taken directly to the locker room.
Paye’s injury, meanwhile, occurred during Rodney Thomas II’s return of a Russell Wilson interception in the fourth quarter. He went down and immediately grabbed his right ankle. Paye was taken off the field on a cart.
Coach Frank Reich wasn’t able to offer any details on the injuries.
The Colts went into the game without Taylor, All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard (concussion/nose/back), safety Julian Blackmon (ankle) and defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis (concussion).
An extended break is needed. The Colts are back in action Oct. 16 against Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Big game for Pierce
Alec Pierce is quickly gaining the trust of Ryan. The rookie wideout led the Colts with eight catches for 81 yards on nine targets. Both are career highs.
“It confirms what I thought,’’ Ryan said. “I thought he was going to be a tough, resilient player. I thought he was going to be a gutting player. I knew he had great hands watching him.
“You just hoped he was a gamer, and he is, there is no doubt about that. He’s so leveled when he’s out there, never too high, too low.’’
Pierce was instrumental as Ryan drove the Colts’ to Chase McLaughlin’s game-tying 31-yard field goal near the end of regulation. On the 10-play drive, he had receptions for 11, 17 and 5 yards.
The 11-yarder came after Bradley Chubb hit Ryan’s arm, causing a wobbly pass. Pierce fended off a Denver defender for the catch.
“I really liked that one,’’ he said. “I just tried to see the ball. It was kind of in the air and I was worried he was going to pick it off. So, I kind of just tried to be physical with him and body him out of the way, like box him out.
“I think I was able to kind of just catch it on my body and my legs or whatever, but trying to trap it on my body . . . keep him away from the ball because I didn’t want him to get an interception.’’
Big game for McLaughlin
On a night the offense struggled and couldn’t finish, Chase McLaughlin came through.
The veteran kicker accounted for all of the Colts’ scoring with 52-, 51-, 31- and 48-yard field goals. The 31-yarder tied the game at 9-all with 5 seconds remaining in regulation. The 48-yarder at the 5:50 mark of overtime proved to be the game-winner.
“Three long ones, massive and right down the middle,’’ Reich said. “So, what a night by Chase. Game ball for sure. He was a stud tonight.’’
The last time a Colts’ kicker converted two 50-plus-yard field goals in a game was by Adam Vinatieri in week 9 of 2019.
Offensive line shuffle
The Colts took drastic measures with their erratic offensive line.
While left guard Quenton Nelson and Kelly stayed put, everyone else moved around. Rookie Bernhard Raimann made his first career start at left tackle, left tackle Matt Pryor shifted over to right tackle and right tackle Braden Smith moved to right guard.
When Kelly exited the game with a hip injury, Danny Pinter replaced him.
It was a new look, but much of the same results.
Ryan was hit 12 times, including six sacks. That pushed his sack total to 20 in five games.
It was a rough night for Raimann. The 3rd-round pick was penalized three times for holding – one was declined – and another time for a false start.
“Bernhard’s first time going in to start, not an easy place to do it,’’ Ryan said. “Not an easy defense to do it against. It’s good experience for him. He’s going to be better for it.’’
This and that
The defense registered a season-high 4 sacks: 2 from DeForest Buckner, 1.5 from Yannick Ngakoue and .5 from Dayo Odeyingbo. . . . With Taylor out, Deon Jackson led the Colts’ run game with 62 yards on 13 attempts. Former Bronco standout Phillip Lindsay had 40 yards on 11 carries. . . . Michael Pittman Jr. had 59 yards on five catches. . . . Linebackers Bobby Okereke and Zaire Franklin led the defense with nine tackles each.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.