INDIANAPOLIS — First, Andrew Luck retired. Now, Jacoby Brissett is hurt.
And suddenly the Indianapolis Colts may need Brian Hoyer and Chad Kelly to survive the next couple of weeks.
Coach Frank Reich confirmed Monday that Brissett has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and said the team would wait until later this week to determine whether its starting quarterback could play Sunday against Miami.
"I talked to Jacoby this morning. He was feeling pretty decent. You know Jacoby, he was pretty optimistic," Reich said. "I think in his mind he felt a little bit better than he expected to feel today, but that's still a far cry from being able to play in the game."
The Colts (5-3) prefer protecting players rather than rushing them back.
They benched four-time Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton for the second half in Week 3 after he aggravated an injured quad. They held him out the next week and again Sunday when he injured his calf in practice. They also deferred to Luck for more than a year as he recovered from a partially torn labrum.
But there's another reason for Reich's patience: He believes in the Colts' depth.
When Luck abruptly stepped away in August, Brissett responded by leading the Colts to five wins in their first seven games to put Indy atop the AFC South.
When Brissett left in the first half in Pittsburgh, Hoyer, a longtime backup with 37 career starts, threw a touchdown pass on his first attempt and rebounded from a costly interception by moving the Colts into position for a go-ahead field goal with 1:11 left.
"I thought he did a great job, especially with the limited reps he's had," said Brissett, who got hurt when left guard Quenton Nelson fell into his leg during the 26-24 loss. "He played great, he made throws I knew I wouldn't make. That's what makes him special. I'm glad he's on our team."
As Reich waits to see if Brissett can practice this week, much less play against the Dolphins, the coach remains confident the Colts can win — regardless of who is behind center.
"He has played a lot of football. He is really a smart player. He has really assimilated well to the offense," Reich said of Hoyer. "Most of those plays he really hasn't repped because he wasn't here for training camp. Jacoby takes all the reps and that's pretty much the standard protocol for all teams. So you've got to get good mental reps and he's a pro. He does a good job at that and he's a talented football player."
Scoring defense. Since returning from their Week 6 bye, the Colts have allowed four touchdowns in three games and 20.0 points per game and have held all three opponents to 24 or fewer points.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Pass protection. After allowing a league-low 18 sacks last year and pitching back-to-back shutouts in Weeks 4 and 5, Indy now has allowed nine sacks in the last two games.
WR Zach Pascal. The undrafted free agent was released three times in 13 months but has found a home in Indianapolis after being claimed off waivers in June 2018. He had more targets than any other Colts receiver Sunday and now has 11 receptions, 188 yards and three TDs in the last three games. The coaches also like his blocking skills
Adam Vinatieri. Long dubbed best clutch kicker in league history, Vinatieri has missed five extra points and five field goals this season, including the shanked 43-yarder that would have given Indy the late lead in Pittsburgh.
In addition to Brissett, WR Parris Campbell fractured his hand in the game. Campbell had surgery Monday and it's unclear how much time he'll miss.
17 — The Colts pride themselves on being among the least penalized teams in the league. But they've committed 17 over the past two weeks, including an unnecessary roughness call against All-Pro LB Darius Leonard on what should have been the final play of the first half. Instead, it moved the Steelers into position for Chris Boswell's 51-yard field goal.
It's cleanup time again. Indy gave away crucial points on Hoyer's pick-six after the Colts moved into the red zone and again on both unnecessary roughness calls — all before Vinatieri's miss.