“He’s beat to crap,” the coach said.
Take your pick when talking about Gore’s injury problems -- thigh, ankle, finger. Pagano made those comments after the 32-year-old Gore was held to a season-low 24 yards on 19 carries against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
“He’s like everybody else,” Pagano said. “He took some shots (against the Buccaneers). But he’s a warrior. He’s a tough son of a gun and he finds a way to get himself right by Sunday and he’ll be right come Sunday night (at Pittsburgh) and we’re going to need him.”
Pagano’s right, the Colts need Gore. They need him badly in fact. What began as a backfield with depth at the start of the season has very little of it now.
Vick Ballard was released. Rookie Josh Robinson was demoted to the practice squad. Ahmad Bradshaw is on injured reserve. Daniel Herron was released and recently brought back after being claimed off waivers from Buffalo. Zurlon Tipton was released and re-signed.
Forty-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been a nice story this season, but the Colts can’t count him on to continue to carry them with his arm. They need some help in the running department. The Colts are 26th in league in rushing yards per game and they’ve only had one 100-yard rusher in a game since the start of the 2012 season.
“It is going to be very, very important that we’re able to generate yards on the ground and stay with it,” Pagano said. “Down the stretch we’re on the road, hostile environments, loud, weather, all those things come into play and when it starts to become more difficult to throw the football because of that you better be able to run it ... You’re going to play in some hostile environments and bad weather stadiums and it could be sleeting sideways and it’d be very difficult to throw it, so you better be able to run it.”
Not all the blame can be put on the running backs when it comes to their inability to run the ball. The shuffling along the offensive line continues for the Colts. It started with poor play in Week 3 and now they’re dealing with injuries up front. Joe Reitz started his first regular-season NFL game in place of the injured Anthony Castonzo and rookie Denzelle Good played in his first game at right tackle against the Buccaneers.
“You plug in some new guys, there’s communication that goes on, there’s continuity things that go -- right when you’re starting to make progress you think in the run game, then you lose AC,” Pagano said. “Then you’ve got to take the right tackle and move him to left tackle. You’ve got to stick in a guy from Mars (Good). It’s tough. It’s hard, but we’re going to keep working at it, keep grinding at it.”