Tight end Dwayne Allen (knee), offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (groin), linebacker Bjoern Werner (shoulder) and linebacker Jerrell Freeman (hamstring) all sat out. Allen isn't expected to play against the Tennessee Titans this Sunday.
Offensive linemen Hugh Thornton and Joe Reitz both practiced. Thornton has missed the past four games with a knee injury. Reitz has missed the past two games with a high-ankle sprain.
Here's the rest of the Colts' injury report from Wednesday:
Limited practice: Receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring); linebacker Erik Walden (knee)
The news of the surgery isn’t surprising as Wayne has been playing with the injury since it happened against Cincinnati on Oct. 19. He missed the Oct. 26 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he’s had no interest in missing any other time despite a slippage in his production.
Wayne, who wears a sleeve on his left arm, has accumulated 24 receptions for 254 yards and one touchdown since returning to the lineup.
Wayne, who is a free agent at the end of the season, has said he won’t decide if he’ll return for a 15th season until he talks to his family in the offseason.
Next up for him is perfection.
“That’s always your goal,” Vinatieri said. “Seasons are long and there are lots of things that go on. I never look at the beginning of the year and say I’m going to try to do this. I never look that far out. I’m always trying to have a big game one at a time and see where things end up at the end.”
Perfection is nice and all, but at Vinatieri’s age, it's even more impressive. He is nailing 50-yard field goals when most football players are enjoying retirement.
He entered the league in 1996. How long ago was that?
Quarterback Andrew Luck was 7. Rookie receiver Donte Moncrief was only 3.
“That just means he’s good at what he does and that he’s proven he has a place in the NFL,” punter and holder Pat McAfee said earlier this season. “He’s the greatest.”
Vinatieri’s dedication is evident. He lost about eight pounds in the offseason, said he gets more sleep at night and improved his nutrition. He spent time talking to receiver Griff Whalen, who doesn’t eat meat.
“I play a position that you can get away with a little extra weight,” Vinatieri said. “I was trying to recommit myself. Every year, the older you get, the more determined, the stricter you have to be about everything. I try to get myself to bed at a good time. I try and to make sure I’m up and eating right. It’s still a challenge at that point, but I know my body needs the right nutrition and needs the right amount of rest to perform well.”
Vinatieri doesn’t want to put a timetable on how long he plans to continue playing. He plans to at least finish his contract through the end of next season.
At this rate, Vinatieri could probably still make field goals until he’s almost 50.
He didn't do it after the first drop, the second drop and definitely not the third drop.
But that was the case in Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
"I watched the tape and I was like, 'Who's that guy?’” Allen said. “"For some reason, I was not there. The sad part about it was me re-injuring the knee and not having the chance to redeem myself in the run game, pass protection or anything else. That sucks. But if you play this game long enough, you're going to have a game like that."
Allen’s drops started on the Colts’ third series. Quarterback Andrew Luck threw a short pass to the right that was out of the reach of Allen. The play wasn’t classified as a drop, but Allen said it was.
Luck, like he always does, didn’t shy away from throwing the ball back to Allen. He threw Allen’s way on the very next play. But instead of attempting to catch the ball his hands in the middle of the field, Allen used his body and the ball bounced right off his chest. Allen’s last drop would have been an 18-yard gain along the sideline, but he couldn’t bring it in.
"On the one over the middle, it hit me right in the chest," Allen said. "Didn't look it in at all. The one on the sideline, people said, 'Oh, it was underthrown.' No. The ball was in the air, I was in the vicinity, I should have caught it, point blank, period. The timing was perfect. I got my eyes around late. Luck can't throw the ball perfect every time. He was under duress. He was able to get the ball up and in the vicinity. It's my job to go up and adjust to the ball and catch it. That's what I should have done. I wasn't able to stop, turn around and catch and that's why it resulted in another drop."
Allen eventually ended up leaving the game with a left knee injury. The Colts are calling him day-to-day, but he likely won’t play against in the season finale at Tennessee this weekend. Allen acknowledged that his ankle sprain from earlier this season has limited his practice time and, unlike players such as Ahmad Bradshaw and Marshawn Lynch, he needs to practice to be effective.
"I've always been one of the hardest-working guys at practice,” Allen said. “Looking back at the past couple weeks, because of injury I haven't been able to work as hard as I usually work. Maybe that has something to do with it. But I'm going to make sure that I do everything within my power to never have an outing like that again.
“I need to be able to get out there and get a couple of reps in order to be successful on Sunday. Being limited with an injury does hinder that. But my knee and my ankle don't have nothing to do with my eyes and my hands. That's the worst performance I've ever had in my playing career."
Andrew Luck, QB, third Pro Bowl selection: Luck spent most of the season leading the NFL in passing yards. He's currently third in that category with 4,601 yards and is second in the league in touchdown passes. Not only is Luck headed to the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive season, he's also headed to the playoffs for the third straight season.
Who he beat out: New Orleans' Drew Brees leads the NFL in passing yards, but the Saints aren't making the playoffs. Seattle's Russell Wilson and San Diego's Philip Rivers also deserved consideration.
Adam Vinatieri, K, third Pro Bowl selection: Vinatieri is the only kicker yet to miss a field goal (28-of-28) this season. He has made three field goals from at least 50 yards and seven between 40-49 yards. Vinatieri will become just the third kicker with at least 20 field goal attempts to finish with a perfect season if he doesn't miss against Tennessee on Sunday.
Who he beat out: It's hard to say somebody should have made it over Vinatieri when he's the only kicker that's perfect on field goals this season. Atlanta' Matt Bryant has made a league-high seven field goals from at least 50 yards.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, first Pro Bowl selection: Hilton, Luck's playmaker at receiver, is fifth in the league in receiving yards. He also has seven touchdowns. Of the receivers with at least 1,000 yards receiving, Hilton is second in the league with 16.4 yards per catch. This is Hilton's second straight season with at least 1,000 yards receiving.
Who he beat out: Denver's Emmanuel Sanders has more receptions, touchdowns, catches of at least 20 yards and first-down receptions than Hilton.
Vontae Davis, CB, first Pro Bowl selection: Davis is having the best season of his six-year career. He hasn't allowed a touchdown reception in 786 snaps. He's also second in the league with 19 passes defended. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Davis got the Richard Sherman treatment earlier this season when the Tennessee Titans didn't throw his way in the Week 4 meeting between the two teams.
Who he beat out: Perrish Cox from San Francisco has more interceptions than Davis, but he doesn't have the shutdown corner skills as Davis.
Pat McAfee, P, first Pro Bowl selection: McAfee is second in the league in net punt average (43.2) and fourth in gross punting average (47.2). He has landed 27 of his punts inside the 20-yard line. McAfee also handles kickoff duties for the Colts, where he's first in the league with 69 touchbacks.
Who he beat out: Like with Vinatieri, a legitimate argument can't be made that there's another punter who should have made the Pro Bowl over McAfee.
What do you call what happened against the Dallas Cowboys last weekend, Andrew Luck?
“I was yanked,” the Indianapolis Colts' quarterback said.
It’s not uncommon for a coach to pull his starting quarterback in a game where the outcome had already been determined to avoid possible injury.
The Colts were down 35-0 at the time, and not even Luck’s late-game heroics were going to save them on that afternoon.
“It was not fun,” Luck said. “My performance was bad. You have to respect the coach’s decision when he pulls you. You don’t have to be happy with it, but it’s the way the game works, the world works. Thankful we have this game (at Tennessee on Sunday) and then the playoff game and hopefully some more after that.”
At one point it appeared the Colts would be able to get by in the wild-card round of the playoffs without Luck being at his best. But it’s reached the point that the only way the Colts will win a playoff game is if Luck returns to form. That means he can’t throw for a career low in yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions like he did against the Cowboys.
He needs to look like the quarterback who was leading the NFL’s top-ranked offense during the first half of the season, not the quarterback who has fumbling problems or tosses interceptions due to forcing throws into coverage like he did in the final seconds of the first half against Dallas.
That transition back has to start with Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans.
“What I need to see from myself is a clean game, no turnovers, productive drives, points,” Luck said. "Not shooting ourselves in the foot, high effort, which has never been a problem. I’m excited for it. It should be fun. It’s going to be fun.”
Luck’s quarterback rating has been 59.8, 76.5 and a career-low 41.7 the past three games. He’s got four touchdowns and five interceptions in that same stretch.
Luck hasn't suddenly changed up his routine. He still spends 24 hours soaking in the previous game and then moves on to the next opponent.
“We look at the tape, and it takes 11 guys on both sides of the ball, on special teams, doing their job, communicating, being on the same page, executing,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “It isn’t just all falling on the quarterback. Like they always say, sometimes they get too much credit and too much of the blame at that position. Everybody’s got to execute and do their job. We’ve all got to do our jobs better.”
Pagano’s right, not all the blame belongs on Luck’s shoulders.
Luck’s the one who is credited with the interception, but not all 14 of them are his fault. There have been passes that have gone off the hands of his receivers and into the hands of the defensive player.
There’s also the issue with dropped balls. The Colts have an NFL-high 40 dropped passes this season, 12 more than the next closest team.
They aren't getting relief from the running game either. Any hope of having a rushing attack ended when Ahmad Bradshaw was lost for the season with a fractured fibula last month. That became even more evident when the Colts rushed for one measley yard on 10 attempts against the Cowboys.
That leaves Luck having to be the best player on every offensive snap in order for the Colts to avoid an early exit from the playoffs.
Holmes started in place of an ineffective Jonotthan Harrison against the Dallas Cowboys last weekend.
“It’s nice to have a vote of confidence,” Holmes said. “The game didn’t go the way any of us had hoped in sense, but I was excited to be out there for my first start. I think I did alright.”
The Colts constantly praised Holmes in the offseason after not signing a marquee center. They signed Phil Costa in March only to have him suddenly retire.
General manager Ryan Grigson said at the end of the draft in May that Holmes would be their starting center.
"We're the ones that have studied," Grigson said in May. "We’re the ones that have watched all the film and not just 10 YouTube clips. Thirty-seventy starts at USC, it's not like it's 'Whatsa Matta U.' It’s a pretty good program. ... Rarely do you have a surefire front-line starter sitting there waiting in the wings for you."
Everything was going smoothly for Holmes until he suffered a high-ankle sprain during the opening drive of the preseason opener in early August. A.Q. Shipley started the first four weeks of the season before Harrison replaced him in Week 5. Holmes, meanwhile, was inactive for 11 of the first 12 weeks of the season.
“It [was] a tough situation,” Holmes said. “Regardless of the circumstances that come after that, that’s tough for anyone to deal with. I like to think I handled it as a professional and as well as I could have.”
Holmes is auditioning to regain the role as “center of the future” for the Colts.
That was the word so commonly used by the Indianapolis Colts entering the season when talking about the offensive line.
No longer did they want to have a revolving door along their front five because of injuries or poor play. It was all about being able to overcome injuries and sticking with the same group all season.
The Colts started their ninth different group of offensive linemen in 15 games against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
They started Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus at tackle, Jack Mewhort and Hugh Thornton at guard and A.Q. Shipley at center in Week 1.
Castonzo is the only player to start every game this season for the Colts. They have started three different players at left guard. Three different players have started at center. Three different players have started at right guard. And three different players have started at right tackle.
That is the furthest thing from continuity.
"It hurts," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "It’s difficult because of continuity and communication and chemistry and all those things. We’ll never make any excuses but it’s real. It’s hard week-in and week-out for everybody when you have to change for whatever reason, so we’d like to hopefully settle in at some point before this thing’s over. It’s coming down to the wire with one regular-season game left and then the playoffs, but it obviously makes it more difficult."
The lack of a set lineup has shown in the number of times quarterback Andrew Luck has been hit and the lack of a running game for Indianapolis. Colts’ quarterbacks have been hit 98 times this season, the fourth-highest total in the NFL. The Colts are also coming off an embarrassing performance against the Cowboys when they rushed for a total of one yard.
"I’ve never seen it, and obviously it’s out of character for us, and you’re not going to win a football game by rushing for one yard," Pagano said. "Even though you fall behind a little bit score-wise, you’ve still got to be able to run the football. You’ve got to be able to run the football in the playoffs, you’ve got to be able to run the football on the road late in the playoffs, in January and all that stuff, and we all know that. We’ve got to do a better job of communicating, got to do a better job of blocking and opening up some holes for these guys.'
It’s uncertain if Cherilus (groin) will be ready for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans. Thornton (knee) has missed the past four games and seven total this season. And Pagano pulled a surprise by starting Khaled Holmes at center over Jonotthan Harrison against the Cowboys. He didn’t tip his hand on who will start at center against the Titans.
So instead of peaking heading into the playoffs, it looks like the Colts will continue to lack continuity and chemistry along the offensive line.
It also ruined any chance of them getting the No. 2 seed and a bye in the first weekend of the playoffs. With Denver losing to Cincinnati on Monday, had the Colts won at Dallas and against at Tennessee this weekend, a Broncos’ loss to Oakland this weekend would have given Indianapolis the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
The Colts and Steelers will both finish 11-5 if they win this weekend, but Pittsburgh will get the No. 3 seed because it beat the Colts in October.
I still don’t expect Colts coach Chuck Pagano to rest a lot of his starters against the Titans this weekend, because of the number of problems they have on offense and defense.
The significance of the No. 4 seed for the Colts is that they will be looking at a second-round visit to New England, which locked up the No. 1 seed with Denver’s loss, if the higher seeded teams win the wild-card games.
And as you know, quarterback Andrew Luck is 0-3, with all three losses not being close, in his career against New England.
So yes, last weekend’s loss to the Cowboys meant something for the Colts. It actually meant a lot for Indianapolis.
It's a good move because the Colts aren't in a position to rest their starters considering how they've played over the past month.
"You want to go down there and you want to play well," Pagano said. "You want to win a football game. You want to compete. We've got to play better obviously than we played yesterday. You want to have momentum going into the playoffs and the only way I know to do that is to go down there and play well and try to win a football game. So that's what we'll prepare for."
The Colts are 4-1 in their last five games. The wins are nice and all, but their overall production on the field is nothing to be proud of heading into the playoffs.
They've committed 15 turnovers in the past five games, the offensive line is dealing with injuries and not blocking well, they ran for a total of one yard against the Cowboys and the defense isn't ready to face a pocket passer in the playoffs.
Those things are reason enough for Pagano to play his starters against the Titans.
"You want to go in feeling good about yourself," the Colts' coach said. "Nobody wants to go through a day like we went through [Sunday]. But you've got to bounce back and you've got to keep moving forward. We better prepare, we better practice and do the right things, try to clean up what we can clean up in a short amount of time and go play well and come out of that game hopefully with a win and try to get your mojo back and get feeling good about yourself. That's obvious. Hopefully we'll get some guys back. Definitely you'd love to go in on a winning note."
The brilliance of Andrew Luck cannot be overstated. He's the prototype for a young NFL quarterback, with seemingly every desirable quality a team could want in that position: he has magnificent accuracy, football intelligence, in-pocket and out-of-pocket mobility, lethal arm strength and, by all accounts, has the respect of the entire Indianapolis Colts roster. His career ceiling relative to every other young NFL quarterback is the highest. He's that kind of talent.
But he also has an interception or fumble in all but one game this season for the Colts, who have secured their second consecutive AFC South crown and will be either the third or fourth seed in the conference depending on the results in Week 17. In many ways, Luck elevates the rest of the Colts' roster through his play, as there are unquestionably holes at notable spots. At the same time, turnovers -- many of which are "credited" to Luck in the box score -- are a major concern for the Colts as the postseason draws nearer.
Can Luck improve this facet of his game in time for Indy to make a postseason run?
The root(s) of the issues
Over the past four games, Luck has committed eight turnovers, each of which is summarized quickly below.