By Sam McPherson
Both the offense and defense for the San Francisco 49ers are experiencing injury woes early in this 2017 NFL regular season as the team prepares for Sunday’s road game against the Indianapolis Colts. Four players on defense are out, while three key players on offense are questionable. This leaves the 49ers with a challenge for both game planning and execution for a matchup that favors them on paper.
The Colts are 1-3 with their only victory coming at home against the 0-4 Cleveland Browns in Week 2. Indy lost on the road to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1 by 37 points and then lost on the road to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4 by 28 points. Meanwhile, the 49ers have losses against the Rams and the Seahawks themselves—but only by a combined five points.
Defense hurting but still playing well
Despite the fact that safety Adrian Colbert (hamstring), linebacker Reuben Foster (ankle), safety Eric Reid (knee) and linebacker Dekoda Watson (groin) didn’t practice this week and are not expected to play on Sunday, the 49ers have some confidence on the defensive side of the ball. The S.F. defense is ranked 19th in total defense right now, which is much better than the dead-last finish last season. The fact the 49ers have done this without their best lineup is impressive, as Foster and Reid are starters. Watson is a pass-rush specialist who registered seven sacks last season for the Denver Broncos, so his presence is missed, too.
Dynamic players on offense may be limited on Sunday
On the other side of the ball, three players that are integral to Head Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense are dinged up and questionable. The worst of it is at running back, where both starter Carlos Hyde (hip) and primary backup Matt Breida (ankle) were limited this week in workouts. That can affect Shanahan’s playcalling, but it also means the 49ers are dangerously thin at the position if both players suffer any aggravation to their current injury problems—either before the game or during it.
In the vertical passing game, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is in the league’s concussion protocol, so he needs to be cleared to play on Sunday in Indianapolis. He, too, was limited in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday, and it’s unknown right now whether or not Goodwin will be active for Week 5.
Colts are battered and bruised, too
With a whopping 14 players listed on their injury report, Indy is not in good shape itself. Of course, the biggest news is that quarterback Andrew Luck, who starred at Stanford during his college days, is out until next month for the Colts as he recovers from labrum surgery. But beyond Luck’s status, five other players did not practice on Thursday for Indy, including RB Frank Gore, the 49ers all-time leading rusher. Gore is expected to play on Sunday, however.
- (RB) Matt Breida (Ankle) — Limited Participation in Practice
- (WR) Marquise Goodwin (Concussion) — Limited Participation in Practice
- (RB) Carlos Hyde (Hip) — Limited Participation in Practice
- (S) Adrian Colbert (Hamstring) — Did Not Participate In Practice
- (LB) Reuben Foster (Ankle) — Did Not Participate In Practice
- (S) Eric Reid (Knee) — Did Not Participate In Practice
- (LB) Dekoda Watson (Groin) — Did Not Participate In Practice