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Associated Press
Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck fumbles the ball as he is sacked by Miami’s Derrick Shelby during the first half Sunday in Indianapolis.

49ers tough test for banged up Colts

– The Colts returned to their locker room bruised and battered Monday.

Nearly half of the opening-day offensive starters couldn’t finish Sunday’s game.

Two of the four injured players, Vick Ballard and Donald Thomas, are done for the year.

Andrew Luck was sacked three more times, including on fourth-and-10 with 87 seconds left in the game.

The defense gave up too many big plays, and the combination led to Indianapolis’ first home loss in 12 months.

Things aren’t about to get any easier as the Colts head West to face the equally upset 49ers.

“We talk about the 24-hour rule when you win, but it doesn’t seem to apply when you lose,” coach Chuck Pagano said Monday, drawing laughter. “I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t.

“Everybody’s miserable till you get to tee it up again the next Sunday. They (the 49ers) are coming off a tough loss, we’re coming off a tough loss, so I think it will be the same in both places.”

Most outsiders didn’t expect Indianapolis (1-1) to replicate last season’s success, though Luck did pull off another fourth-quarter comeback in Week 1 and had the Colts in position to do it again in Week 2. But that was a tougher week than anybody anticipated.

On Thursday, the Colts lost Ballard, their top running back, when his right knee gave out in the middle of practice. He has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and has already been put on season-ending injured reserve.

Left guard Thomas is likely to join Ballard on that list this week after tearing a quad tendon in his right leg. Pagano said Thomas will have surgery later this week.

Tight end Dwayne Allen was inactive Sunday because of a hip injury, and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey left the Miami game early with what was initially described as a rib injury.

Pagano said Monday he thought Heyward-Bey hurt the “whole backside” – shoulder, rib and back. He also said the MRI exam was negative and Heyward-Bey could practice Wednesday or Thursday.

Of course, that was the initial prognosis for Allen last week.

“I think it’s the nature of football, it’s a violent game. Guys get injured and it stinks,” Luck said. “But I think that’s also why the nation likes it (football) so much, because it is a violent game.”

Indy isn’t fretting over the injuries.

Rookie Hugh Thornton, a third-round draft pick, got good reviews from Pagano after replacing Thomas in Sunday’s game. He’s expected to make his first NFL start at San Francisco (1-1).

Tight end Coby Fleener played well in Allen’s absence, catching four passes for 69 yards and one TD and would have had a second TD reception if Reggie Wayne hadn’t been called for an illegal shift.

Ahmad Bradshaw ran 15 times for 65 yards in his most extensive action since having offseason surgery on his right foot. T.Y. Hilton caught six passes for a career-high 124 yards Sunday.

The Colts insist any problems are fixable, even as they prepare to face one of the NFL’s top defenses.

“You’ve really got to limit your mistakes, and often times whoever wins comes down to who makes less mistakes,” Luck said. “Or sometimes it comes back and bites you in the rear.”

After watching the tape Sunday night and Monday morning, Pagano gave his team three simple instructions: make the corrections, move forward, and focus on the 49ers.

“What we emphasized is the mistakes we’ve made, we just can’t have repeat offenders. We’ve got to clean them up and put them to bed,” Pagano said. “It’s over, and it’s done.”