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Ryan Kelly's absence could be key setback for Colts

By
Phillip B. Wilson, The Sports Xchange
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (12) drops back to pass against the Oakland Raiders in the first quarter on October 28 at the Coliseum in Oakland. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (12) drops back to pass against the Oakland Raiders in the first quarter on October 28 at the Coliseum in Oakland. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

INDIANAPOLIS -- As much as they would like to appreciate being back at .500 after a 1-5 start, the Indianapolis Colts might be without the anchor to a stout offensive line for Sunday's home game against Miami at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Third-year center Ryan Kelly suffered a knee injury in Sunday's 38-10 home win over Tennessee, and head coach Frank Reich suggested a day later that the offensive lineman might be out for more than this next game.

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"Not ready to put a week-to-week status on it," Reich said on Monday of the ominous distinction, which means the Colts are considering ruling out Kelly for Sunday. "He could miss a little time. We are going to take a few days and monitor and assess it a little bit further before we kind of give it any status."

Kelly's absence could be a key setback for an O-line that has given quarterback Andrew Luck the best protection of his seven-year career. Luck wasn't sacked for a team-record fifth consecutive game on Sunday, tied for the third-longest NFL streak since 1982. The Colts passer wasn't even hit, and hasn't taken a sack in 214 pass attempts.

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Reich admitted Kelly has been "playing at a super high level" during the Colts' four-game win streak. As the offensive line has progressed and excelled, Reich has said the improvement started with communication between Kelly and Luck. Kelly, a former first-round draft pick, makes the line calls and is responsible for making sure his teammates are all on the same page.

Third-year pro Evan Boehm, signed off the Los Angeles Chargers' practice squad on Oct. 8, would be Kelly's replacement. He finished up on Sunday, although he was an eight-game starter at right guard for the Arizona Cardinals last season.

"We'll just keep rolling," Reich said. "I mean we feel like Evan (Boehm) is ready if he's the one playing.

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"Obviously Ryan is playing at a super high level. So I am not going to suggest that there wouldn't be any changes, but they would be very minimal. Really, it just comes down to systematically him plugging in and being able to take control and show a handle of the protections and making the calls in the run game and in protections. We have confidence he can do that."

Versatile tackle/guard Joe Haeg would have been the first option, but he just started practicing last week after being placed on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain. He isn't eligible to return until Dec. 2 at Jacksonville.

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Luck and the Colts offense have been clicking for about two months in scoring 24 or more points in seven consecutive games, the first time that's happened since 2005. The Colts rank fifth at 29.8 points per game. Luck has thrown three touchdown passes in seven consecutive games, tying Dan Marino for the third-longest such streak.

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The Dolphins and Colts are among five 5-5 teams trying to at the very least qualify for the playoffs with a wild-card berth. Sunday's game would be pivotal for each team. The Colts are two games behind Houston (7-3) in the AFC South Division.

Reich insists the team's focus stays the same: Just win the next game.

"I think if there is any silver lining behind starting out 1-5, it's you do get a chance to experience that 1-0 is the only way to go as far as what your mindset should be because you really don't have any other option at that point," the coach said. "Then you see how you respond as an individual and how we respond as a team and so I guess that's learning it the hard way as they say."

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--DE Margus Hunt might not miss any time after aggravating a knee injury that he's been dealing with for several weeks. "We will wait and see how he responds in the next couple of days," Reich said, "but we are a little bit more optimistic with Margus." Hunt, starting full-time for the first time in six seasons, has had his best year with a career-high four sacks and 11 tackles for loss.

--LB Darius Leonard's 104 total tackles are now 15 more than any other player in the league. The second-round selection also had his first pro interception against the Titans as well as his fifth sack. Leonard is the first rookie to have more than 100 total tackles in his first nine games since 1994.

--QB Andrew Luck is 10-0 against the Titans, which ties Hall of Famer John Elway (10-0 vs. Patriots) as the only quarterbacks to have a 10-0 record against a team. Luck bumped his career TD pass total to 161, which makes him just the third quarterback in league history to surpass 160 in his first 80 regular-season starts. Marino (182) and Rodgers (160) are the others. Luck's 79.3 pass completion percentage (23 of 29) is the second-highest number of his career, just behind his 79.5 against Jacksonville in 2014.

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--WR T.Y. Hilton caught all nine passes in which he was targeted for 155 yards and two scores, including a 68-yard TD reception. It's the ninth multi-touchdown game of his career. Hilton is tied with Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison for the franchise record with 11 games of 150 or more receiving yards.

--CB Kenny Moore II had a team-high 10 tackles (nine solo) as well as a half sack.

--K Adam Vinatieri passed George Blanda (209) for most regular-season wins in NFL history. The ageless specialist has already set NFL career records this season in field goals (574) and points (2,561).

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