Colts believe they have put themselves in division race

INDIANAPOLIS — With Sunday’s home-field 26-23 overtime win over
San Francisco, the Indianapolis Colts have positioned themselves to
start making a move in the volatile AFC South.

Injuries to key players have hit the division hard, especially this
past weekend. Indianapolis, meanwhile, seems to be getting a bit
healthier heading into next Monday night’s nationally-televised
game against AFC South rival Tennessee.

While quarterback Andrew Luck remains sidelined as he rehabs from
offseason shoulder surgery, it looks like the Colts could get some
of the team’s younger players back into the lineup.

Rookie cornerbacks Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston both missed the
49ers game, but could be back in time to play against Tennessee.
With a Monday night game coming up, Indianapolis is getting an
extra day to prepare for the Titans and to hopefully get some of
the walking wounded back on the practice field.

Being on Monday Night Football can be intimidating for younger
players. Veteran wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has been through the
routine and is trying to point the way for some of his less
experienced teammates.

“You don’t have to tell them anything,” Hilton said Monday. “They
grew up watching it. It’s the biggest stage. There are a lot of
media outlets. But at the end of the day, just go out there and
play and have fun.”

Outside linebacker John Simon is new to the Colts, but is a veteran
of AFC South play after beginning his NFL career with Houston. He
understands how fortunate Indianapolis is to still be in contention
to make the postseason.

“Yeah, we’re fortunate right now that 2-3 is putting us in second
place (in the division). We’ve made some strides the past couple of
weeks and we have to continue to do so,” Simon admitted Monday.

“It’ll be a big game for us Monday night. So (a) big challenge.
(We’ll) start watching film on them and start preparing.”

Kicker Adam Vinatieri has pretty much seen it all during his 22
years in the league. His perspective on the Colts’ mindset as they
prepare for the first AFC South game of the season is an
interesting one.

“Yeah, the division right now. Guys are playing good and then
there’s other weeks where crazy things happen too. It’s early in
the season still. But division games are very, very important. And
we’re hoping to get a win,” Vinatieri said Monday.

“You’ve got to win your division to expect to make the playoffs.
This is just one game out of 16, but it’s an important game for us
and them.”

–Indianapolis has only two passing touchdowns so far this season,
which is the fewest in the NFL. The Colts also have eight rushing
touchdowns, which is the most in the league.

–In 2016, Indianapolis had four rushing plays of 20 or more yards
(three by Andrew Luck and one by Frank Gore). So far this season,
the Colts have five rushing plays of 20 or more yards (three by
Marlon Mack, one each by Jacoby Brissett and Gore).

–Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton knows that Colts have a great
opportunity when the team faces the Tennessee Titans next Monday
night.

“It’s very important. This game, it counts double,” Hilton said
Monday. “It’s something that we understand and come (this)
Wednesday, we’ll look more in to. But we’re going to be alright.”

NOTES: S Clayton Geathers (neck) is “a week to two weeks away” from
getting back on the practice field. When Geathers is cleared for
practice, he will be all non-contact for a couple of weeks. He
underwent surgery last spring. Head coach Chuck Pagano said Monday
that he remains hopeful that Geathers will be able to play this
season. … K Adam Vinatieri has made 13 consecutive field goals
with his team down 0 to 3 points in the final minutes of the fourth
quarter and overtime. Vinatieri, who ranks second in field goals
made in NFL history, hit his 27th career game-winning kick against
the 49ers. He is the third player with 2,400 career points and the
San Francisco game was his second with two field goals of 50 yards
or more. … Rookie RB Marlon Mack has seen limited playing so far
this season, partially due to a sore shoulder that sidelined him
for two games. Mack, though, has shown his potential when he has
the ball in his hands. Through five games, he has 25 total rushes
for 112 yards. Five of his runs went at least 11 yards. … QB
Andrew Luck (right shoulder) will not play at Tennessee next Monday
night. Luck’s practice schedule for the coming week has not been
decided as of yet. The Colts won’t begin on-field preparations for
the Titans until Thursday. … TE Jack Doyle (concussion) was a
pre-game inactive against the 49ers. His status for the Titans game
has yet to be determined. Doyle was hurt against Seattle two weeks
ago. … Rookie CB Nate Hairston (quad) was inactive for the San
Francisco game. Hairston’s availability for the Tennessee game
remains undecided. The first-year defensive back from Temple has
impressed during his limited playing time this season. … Rookie
CB Quincy Wilson (knee) was held out of the 49ers game. Wilson saw
light practice time last week, but was not ready to play against
San Francisco. He remains hopeful of being available for next
Monday night’s game at Tennessee. … RB Matt Jones (knee) did not
play against San Francisco. Jones was a late addition to the injury
list last Friday. While a final decision on his availability isn’t
expected until the end of the week, Jones hopes to be able to
practice on Thursday. … WR Chester Rogers (hamstring) saw light
practice late last week. Rogers has been sidelined with a strained
hamstring since early in training camp. He had been making good
progress in rehab, but had a setback two weeks ago. … Rookie ILB
Anthony Walker (hamstring) left the 49ers game Sunday in the second
half and did not return. It was Walker’s first game back after
sitting out two weeks with hamstring issues. His availability for
next Monday night’s game at Tennessee has yet to be determined. …
Rookie WR Krishawn Hogan (knee) suffered a torn ACL in the second
half of Sunday’s game with San Francisco. He is out for the
remainder of the season. Hogan had been elevated to the active
roster from the practice squad last week. The undrafted free agent
is an Indianapolis native.

REPORT CARD VS. 49ERS

–PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus – QB Jacoby Brissett had a career day for
the Colts, completing 22-of-34 passes for 314 yards. He also threw
a nearly-costly interception early in overtime. Brissett was
spectacular when he was able to get outside the pocket and create
on the move, displaying a strong arm. He also hesitated on several
throws, particularly the interception in overtime. Brissett zeroed
in too long on rookie tight end Darrell Daniels, which brought
inside linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong inside for the interception. WR
T.Y. Hilton got off to a sluggish start in the game, dropping a
couple of passes and being called for a pair of costly penalties.
Hilton, though, responded when the game was on the line, ending up
with seven receptions for 177 yards. Brissett and Hilton hooked up
on a pair of long passes in the game. WR Donte Moncrief had three
receptions for 32 yards and WR Kamar Aiken added two catches for 22
yards.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B – Rookie RB Marlon Mack, who had been
sidelined the last couple of weeks with a sore shoulder, made his
presence felt often against the 49ers. Mack only carried the
football nine times, but ended up as the game’s leading rusher with
91 yards. That included a nifty 22-yard touchdown run in the third
quarter and a 35-yard scamper to the outside in overtime to set up
the game-winning field goal. RB Frank Gore added 48 yards in 14
carries as he played against his former team. Gore had a long run
of 16 yards.

–PASS DEFENSE: C-minus – The Colts’ inside linebackers continue to
have their issues in pass coverage. Antonio Morrison and Jon Bostic
both had seven tackles. San Francisco TE George Kittle had a field
day inside, hauling in seven passes for 83 yards and a TD. 49ers RB
Matt Breida added three receptions for 22 yards, including a
crucial first down, when he was lined up outside. San Francisco QB
Brian Hoyer completed 29-of-46 passes for 353 yards and two
touchdowns for the 49ers against the Indianapolis secondary. OLB
Jabaal Sheard had seven tackles, 1.5 sacks and two quarterback
hurries. Hoyer was sacked twice but ended the game with a 101.1
passer rating. S Matthais Farley ended the day with five tackles
and a pass broken up. CBs Rashaan Melvin and Vontae Davis had five
tackles with a pass broken up. Rookie S Malik Hooker had five
tackles, including one that prevented a potential breakout run. S
Darius Butler added four tackles.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B – The Indianapolis defensive line did a nice job
in limiting the 49ers running attack. RB Matt Breida, filling in
for the injured Carlos Hyde, led San Francisco with 49 yards in 10
carries. Hyde saw limited playing time and had 11 yards in eight
attempts. DT Johnathan Hankins and NT Al Woods both had two
tackles, respectively. Indianapolis did a nice job of controlling
the line of scrimmage for the most part. OLB John Simon added four
tackles for Indianapolis.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus – K Adam Vinatieri may be the oldest
player in the NFL, but he still can hit big kicks. His 51-yarder
with 3:22 remaining in overtime gave Indianapolis the win. But he
wound up with four field goals on the day, connecting from 52, 23,
and 38 yards in regulation. Rookie P Rigoberto Sanchez continues to
impress, averaging 47.8 yards on four punts and pinning four kicks
inside the 49ers 20-yard line. He also had two touchbacks on
kickoffs. San Francisco had no punt return yardage and just 59
yards on four kickoff returns. The lone negative was an ill-timed
across-the-field lateral from WR Quan Bray to rookie WR Krishawn
Hogan. The lateral was very nearly intercepted.

–COACHING: C-plus – Indianapolis nearly gave another game away.
After taking a 23-9 lead with 9:56 left in the fourth quarter, the
Colts were forced to go to overtime in order to get their second
win of the season. Putting teams away continues to be a big issue
for head coach Chuck Pagano’s team this year. Fortunately,
Indianapolis has perhaps the best clutch kicker in NFL history on
its side. Also, the decision to try a trick play on a punt return
was a huge head scratcher. The ensuing lateral was nearly
intercepted. Clock management late in regulation and overtime also
raised some questions.

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