Jonathan Taylor dominates to help Colts run past the Jets

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts kept quarterback Carson Wentz from getting in his own way as they attempt to stay in the playoff mix during the second half of the season.

It’s actually pretty simple: Lean more on running back Jonathan Taylor and less on Wentz.

Taylor spearheaded one of the franchise’s most dominant rushing performances in the Colts' 45-30 victory over the Zach Wilson-less New York Jets on Thursday.

"When he gets to the second level, I feel like it's going to the house," coach Frank Reich said. "He's just fast, strong and elusive. Playing really good. Our receivers really work hard down the field so they're going to get him all the help he can have down there."

Taylor rushed for 172 yards and the Colts finished with 260 on the ground. This wasn’t a game where the Colts needed to have long, clock-consuming double-digit-play drives. Taylor made quick work of the Jets with long runs. He averaged 9.1 yards a carry with touchdown runs of 78 and 21 yards to become the first player in the NFL this season to have multiple touchdown runs of at least 20 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

"It takes a lot of pressure off the pass game when you can run like that," Reich said. "Hit some big chunks in the pass game, but you could just feel it early. You could just feel us dominating the line of scrimmage early, I could feel that. So, we just were efficient."

The more Taylor runs the ball, the more those not too familiar with him learn about the second-year running back. It was the Colts’ first home prime-time game since the 2017 season.

It was also the third time in less than two seasons Taylor has had at least 150 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns. The Colts had that happen only three times between 2000 and 2019, and Taylor has already surpassed Hall of Famers Edgerrin James and Eric Dickerson for the most such games in franchise history.

"Wow, first reaction is that's crazy," Taylor said. "That's a testament to the O-line and receivers. I don't think the receivers get a lot of love. The line gets it going, but the receivers are the guys who really spring you."

Taylor’s performance came less than a week after he had 16 carries compared to the 51 pass attempts by Wentz against the Tennessee Titans. That didn’t work, as the Colts lost the game with two Wentz interceptions late in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The Colts, a pass-first franchise for so many years, need to have success on the ground so Wentz doesn't have to try to do too much, as they attempt to claw their way back from a 1-4 start.

"Those are the best drives in football, when you can turn around and give it to the guy, 200-yard plus rushing yards," Wentz said. "Those chunk runs are huge. They're tough on the defense."

QB breakdown: Wentz wasn’t one of the stars of the game, but his play couldn’t go unnoticed. He bounced back from his two-interception game by going 22-of-30 for 272 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Wentz has now completed 63.4% of his pass attempts, which is the third highest of his six-year career, with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions this season.

Showing off the speed: Colts running back Nyheim Hines joined Tennessee’s Derrick Henry and Cleveland’s Nick Chubb as the only backs to have a max speed of at least 20 mph on multiple rushing touchdowns when he maxed out at 20.6 on his 34-yard touchdown run in the first half. Hines hit a max speed of 20.8 mph on a touchdown in Week 3 against the Titans. He rushed for 74 yards on six carries.

Troubling trend: The Jets didn’t have their starting quarterback, they lost their backup in the first quarter and the Colts still had a difficult time slowing them down with their third stringer at the position. The Colts, who rely more on their ability to force turnovers, gave up 486 total yards, allowed the Jets to go 8-of-14 on third down and had only two sacks. That’ll barely work against the Jets. It definitely won’t later in the season when the Colts have to face quarterbacks like Buffalo’s Josh Allen, Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady and Arizona’s Kyler Murray.