INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor started left, saw two New England Patriots defenders and cut back to the right and took off. Taylor, at one point during Saturday's game-sealing touchdown run, looked back at the defenders the same way he should be looking back at the rest of the NFL MVP candidates.
That’s because in a time when quarterbacks have routinely dominated the MVP race, Taylor is trying to run his way to the individual award.
“What he is doing now in this NFL, there’s absolutely no question that he is the MVP,” Colts linebacker Darius Leonard said.
Unfortunately for Taylor and the Colts, running back is not a position that routinely wins MVP. The honor usually goes to quarterbacks, who have won eight straight and 12 of the past 14. Running back Adrian Peterson in 2012 was the last non-quarterback to win the award.
Taylor leads the NFL in a number of categories, including rushing yards (1,518), rushing touchdowns (17) and total touchdowns (19) this season. The last three running backs to win the award -- Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander -- all rushed for at least 1,800 yards.
Taylor will have to average around 100 yards in the Colts' final three games (Arizona Cardinals, Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars) to reach that mark, and he'll have the advantage of an added game that the others didn't have.
It won't be surprising if he surpasses it because he's rushed for at least 100 yards in five of the past six games.
“I’ve said he’s the MVP for six weeks now,” ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky said about Taylor. “Hundred yards a game, 5.5 a carry. He has more touchdowns than games played. Everybody knows he’s going to run the rock. Everyone points to [Tennessee Titans running back] Derrick Henry last year. Well, no quarterback is throwing 48 touchdowns this year. I think Jonathan Taylor is MVP.”
Orlovsky mentioned Henry because in 2020 the Titans running back rushed for 2,027 yards, which is difficult to do, but still didn’t get any votes. Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, who won the award, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes got them all.
What’s made Taylor’s season so impressive is he’s put up those numbers with the opposition knowing the Colts are going to give him the ball.
Taylor sealed the Colts’ victory over New England in Week 15 with that 67-yard touchdown in the final minutes, when the Patriots loaded up the box to try to stop him. Taylor totaled 170 yards rushing against New England.
“There were about 11 guys up," quarterback Carson Wentz said. "Everyone in the building knew we were running the ball. We have the best running back in the league, and he made two guys miss in the hole; that’s just JT being JT. Taking it to the house and no one is going to catch him.”
Team success will likely impact the race. Thirteen of the past 16 MVPs have been on teams that were the top seed in their conference. Fifteen of the past 16 were on teams that were one of the top two seeds. The Colts (8-6) are currently the fifth seed in the AFC playoff race. Rodgers and Mahomes are on teams that are the No. 1 seed in the NFC and AFC, respectively, with Brady and Tampa sitting at the No. 3 seed in the NFC.
Taylor's impact on games can't be denied. He's rushed for at least 100 yards eight times this season.
The Colts' record in those games?
A perfect 8-0.
“It's ridiculous. He's a cheat code. I mean, he's a walking touchdown," Colts defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said. “You’re always thinking this can be a touchdown. With his size, speed, agility. He can catch the ball out of the filed. He’s close to 20 touchdowns. Leave no doubt he’s going to get it. Almost 2,000 yards. For me it’s a no-brainer. When looking at an all-around football he’s the guy. JT is the MVP, baby.”