Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard has spent the last two offseason gaining depth.
The payoff came on Saturday night when they still managed to defeat Arizona leader NFC-West despite losing six starters to COVID-19 protocols, two more in the first half with injuries, and again without the Ryan Kelly center after the sudden death of her baby daughter,
Afterward, players and coaches praised Ballard for building a roster with so many capable spares – something they may have to rely on again this week after adding five more players to the COVID-19 roster on Monday. .
“We gave him a game ball in there because when you have a day like this and you need everyone on the list, you thank the man who put it together,” Coach Frank Reich said afterwards. “So ball game to Chris Ballard.”
It was deserved.
After Andrew Luck’s retirement in August 2019 caught the Colts off guard and barred them from making the playoffs, Ballard blamed himself. He also promised not to make the same mistake.
Instead, he got to work.
In March 2020, he solidified the defense by trading for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. A month later, he selected NFL race leader Jonathan Taylor, receivers Michael Pittman Jr. and Dezmon Patmon and goaltender / center Danny Pinter in the draft.
Last March, he traded to quarterback Carson Wentz and invested in the offensive line by signing tackles Eric Fisher and Julie’n Davenport as well as guard Chris Reed before trading to Matt Pryor in August.
Each played a vital role against the Cardinals. Taylor’s ninth 100-yard game got him over 1,600 yards this season, while Pittman caught eight assists and Patmon hit Wentz’s sealed touchdown pass with 6:37 left.
They did it all without three-time All-Pro goaltender Quenton Nelson or right-guard Mark Glowinski due to COVID-19, Kelly and Fisher for more than three quarters due to knee, toe and knee injuries. pectoral muscle. Indy got more than enough production from Pinter, Reed, Pryor and Davenport to win and now they may have to do it all over again after Indy’s fifth starter right tackle Braden Smith gets on the COVID- list. Monday 19.
The outbreak has once again raised questions about a franchise that opened this season with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the league, with Wentz being one of the unvaccinated players. If Wentz couldn’t play at some point, rookie Sam Ehlinger would likely step in.
“We have a plan for the whole team and a plan for some people, Carson being one of them,” Reich said on Monday when asked to isolate Wentz from his teammates. “I’m not going to go into specific names. These things are we talk about and we discuss.
But if the Colts demonstrated anything on Saturday with linebacker Darius Leonard and safety Khari Willis also on the COVID-19 roster, it’s that they have enough solid components to win even with an exhausted cast – something which should give them a boost of confidence before Sunday.
“It’s huge, it’s huge,” Wentz said. “Especially with the world we live in right now and with COVID, the depth (the list) has, that we can still go up against a really good team and find a way to get it done.”
General defense. Even without Leonard, Willis and no turnover, the defense allowed only 16 points. EJ Speed and George Odum played well in the leading roles.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Indy has wrestled mobile quarterbacks several times this season and Kyler Murray was no exception. His early 57-yard run set the Cardinals’ first score. Arizona averaged 6.3 yards on 21 carries.
TY Hilton. The four-time Pro Bowl receiver has been held up by injuries all season and that hampered his ability to become a consistent option for Wentz. But when the Colts needed Hilton, he produced. Hilton scored Indy’s first touchdown and set up the second with a crucial 39-yard reception.
Michael Badgley. The kicker scored his first 10 field goals after joining the team in October, but he’s lost just 5 of 8 since then and missed a 53-yard game on Saturday.
Reich said some players sidelined by the virus could return this week, although he did not provide names. Leonard is not scheduled to play on Sunday. Doyle and Fisher will be evaluated throughout the week and safety Andrew Sendejo has not cleared the concussion protocol. But it looks like Indy can get Kelly back.
“I spoke to Ryan today and he seemed to be doing fine, all things considered,” Reich said. “I think we can expect him to return to the building this week. We continue to give him and Emma (Kelly’s wife) the support they need, but I expect him to. either back in the building this week.
10 – A win over Las Vegas would solidify the Colts’ grip on the No.5 seed in the playoffs, but it would also give Indy a third season of 10 wins in Reich’s four seasons.
Since starting 1-4, the Colts have won eight of 10, including three in a row. They’re one of the hottest teams in the AFC, but need to keep winning to keep that momentum going in what appears to be a likely playoff appearance.
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