INDIANAPOLIS – It was the final defensive play of the Colts’ biggest win of the 2019 season, but it ended with the defense losing one of their most unique players.
Kemoko Turay was coming on, and he let the entire NFL world know that in a Week Five primetime victory over the Chiefs.
With Turay’s burst off the edge hassling Patrick Mahomes all night long (Turay had 3 quarterback hits and a half sack against the Chiefs), it was a sign of what the Colts hoped they were getting when taking the speedy defensive end in the second round of the 2018 Draft.
But all of that came to a screeching halt when Turay suffered a deltoid fracture and a torn ligament, while also sacking Mahomes, on the final defensive snap of the game.
The play began with a Turay spin move, and not his patented upfield speed rush, knocking Chiefs left tackle Cameron Ervin off balance and eventually to the ground. With Mahomes backpedaling trying to keep things alive, the motor of Turay kept going in a play that lasted nearly six seconds. As Turay leaped to take down Mahomes, it appeared some friendly fire led to the gruesome right ankle injury.
“I saw that my leg went the other direction and I just panicked, ‘Why?’” Turay recalls. “My leg isn’t supposed to be like that?’
“I saw the trainers rushing in and I was just in shock. When he snapped it back in place, I didn’t feel a thing, but it was just surprising, ‘Why did this happen to me?’”
The season-ending injury for Turay came in the same week that Chris Ballard had noticed his young rusher emerging.
Ballard had texted Turay that week, ‘you had an unbelievable practice, keep doing what you’re doing.’
With Turay busy rehabbing and trying to eliminate nagging injuries by strengthening his upper body, he has shown the Colts some very intriguing potential at a desperate position of long-term need.
“Losing Kemoko Turay was a big hit,” Ballard says when looking back on the 2019 season. “I think you saw it. You saw it against the Chargers. I think you saw it against Kansas City. Neither one of those teams could block him. He was a fastball that we needed.
“I thought he really took another step. You always see a pretty big step between Year 1 and Year 2. Sometimes it takes a little longer with pass rushers. He took the step in the right direction and he’s worked his butt off to get healthy.”
When Turay went down in that win over the Chiefs, they knew how vital of a piece they were losing.
And for Turay, it came at a time where his confidence was growing, after a difficult rookie season.
“Once you unlock that ability and skills as you keep practicing and stuff, you start to realize you have more in you and you start believing in yourself and in the things that you can do. That’s what happened (in the practices) leading up to the Kansas City game,” Turay says.
Now, it’s all about Turay getting back to that level.