Tribune Star Correspondent
The Indianapolis Colts will have a few new faces in the starting defensive lineup when they arrive Sunday at Detroit's Ford Field.
Defensive tackle Fili Moala suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week's 20-13 home-field win over Buffalo. Moala was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. Strong safety Tom Zbikowski, meanwhile, will remain in Indianapolis as he nurses a right knee injury that he also incurred against the Bills a week ago.
Ricardo Mathews will take over for Moala but will be spelled by Clifton Geathers and Lawrence Guy. A recent addition, defensive tackle Kellen Heard (6-6, 339), may also get his first playing time with the Colts.
The duo of Sergio Brown and Joe Lefeged will share Zbikowski's duties as the Colts face a powerful Detroit Lions passing attack.
Another change will have veteran cornerback Vontae Davis returning to the starting lineup. Davis, who was acquired in a trade from Miami before the start of the regular season, has been sidelined for the last four games with a knee injury. How long, and how much, Davis plays against Detroit will depend on how his knee feels.
"I don’t know if we can ask him to go out there and play 60 plays in this game. Hopefully by the end of the week, he’ll be able to take that load. But he’s ready to go," interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said earlier this week.
Arians added that the loss of Moala may not be quite as major a setback as it might have been had the injury occurred earlier in the season.
"We’re going to miss Fili, but we didn’t have him for three weeks [this season]. We know how to play without him. It’s not the first time. So plug in the guys that we have and never use it as a crutch or an excuse," he said.
"I’m excited to see Kellen [Heard]. He’s a big active guy. He’s played pretty well in the National Football League and we’re excited to have him on our team.”
As for who will get the call to cover Detroit's best receiver, Calvin Johnson, Arians said that it will be a group assignment.
"We’ll play our positions. Had Vontae been healthy for the last five or six weeks [he might have gotten the job]. But to put him out there coming off an injury and say, ‘Go guard Calvin,’ that’s not fair to him," he voiced.
"Our guys are used to playing right and left and staying on their sides. [Defensive coordinator] Greg
[Manusky] will do a good job as far as our coverages and trying to handle [Johnson]. He is an unbelievable challenge.”
Touchdowns, not field goals -- As for the Lions as a team, Arians knows that Indianapolis will be tested.
Just how well the Colts react to what Detroit will throw against them offensive and defensively will be the key to the possibility of coming away with a win.
"This is a great challenge for us,” he said Friday. “Just got to keep plugging and add them up on Sunday and hopefully we can play better on the road against a quality opponent and get a win.”
With the type of fast-paced offense that the Lions will put on the field, Indianapolis can't afford to settle for field goals.
“Those early touchdowns add up to the confidence on the road that we need to do because this team can score points,” Arians said. “We can’t go down there and kick field goals from third-and-one on the one and expect to win the game.
“[Detroit] is a very talented football team. They’ve lost two really close ballgames at home. We’re going to get their best shot. They’re in a do-or-die situation and so are we. We’ve got to give them our best shot and not leave anything for chance. We can’t count on other teams to help us [in making the playoffs]. We’ve got to take care of ourselves.”
Injury list -- Zbikowski (shin contusion/knee) was the only Indianapolis player to miss Friday's practice. He has already been ruled out of Sunday's game.
Nose tackle Martin Tevasue (head/shoulder), tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder), running back Donald Brown (knee), offensive tackle Tony Hills (chest), Luck (knee), Lefeged (toe) and Davis (knee) all fully practiced.
Tevasue is listed as questionable for Detroit. Everybody else is probable.