Colts’ notebook: Zaire Franklin blocked punt? Just doing what he was told

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andrew Wingard (42) and Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Zaire Franklin (44) go for a loose ball after the Colts blocked a punt in the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. The Colts recovered and scored a touchdown. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS – Zaire Franklin was simply following orders.

Monday, he received a text from special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone outlining what would be a game-shaping moment in Sunday’s game with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Hey Z, you’re going to get a block this week. I’m calling it right now.

Franklin smiled as he shared Ventrone’s message/prediction.

“I had to prove him right,’’ he said after his block of a Logan Cooke punt in the first quarter was scooped up by E.J. Speed and returned for a 12-yard touchdown in the Indianapolis Colts’ 23-17 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. “So I’m happy I had his back, got the block. Wish I could have scooped it, but my boy E.J. got it.

“So kept it in the linebackers’ room. That’s all that matters.’’

Franklin said his group worked on the blocked-punt scheme all week.

“We just knew it,’’ he said. “We know how guys are, our special teams. Myself, E.J., Matt (Adams), George (Odum), Ashton (Dulin) . . . Jordan (Glasgow). We take serious pride in that, into our craft and our preparation.

“We had a lot of rushes up this week on punt return, but we just knew one of us was going to get home.’’

Coach Frank Reich reinforced Franklin’s confidence entering the game.

“All week long Bubba had a feeling we were going to block a punt,’’ he said. “We were doing punt-block drills in the middle of the season, like serious punt-block drills in the middle of the season and him saying ‘Somebody’s going to get it.’

“Bubba was really confident that we were going to get a block this week. Then, of course Zaire executed perfectly. How about E.J. on the recovery? He looked like a man possessed.’’

It was the Colts’ first blocked punt since week 10 of last season at Tennessee. Speed blocked the punt and cornerback T.J. Carrie returned it 6 yards for a TD.

Taylor still rolling

It didn’t approach the level of success the last time he faced Jacksonville, but Jonathan Taylor nonetheless had a solid day.

Taylor ripped off a 34-yard run on the first play of the game, and finished with 116 yards and one touchdown on a season-high 21 carries. It marked his fifth 100-yard outing in his last seven games.

On a grander scale, Taylor’s 116 yards pushed him into a tie with Derrick Henry atop the NFL’s rushing chart with 937 yards. Henry might miss the remainder of the regular season with a foot injury.

The last time Taylor faced the Jaguars – in week 17 of 2020 – he erupted for a franchise-record 253 yards.

Taylor credited the Colts’ success on the ground to “preparation and our communication with the o-line. Really, when you’re on communication with the o-line, it doesn’t matter what scheme the defense throws at you. It doesn’t matter what kind of pressure or blitzes that they bring.

“We’re all on the same accord and we can get that blocked up and we can execute.’’

It appeared Taylor was headed toward another massive game. He had 93 yards in the first quarter, the 4th-highest opening-period total in team history.

And he had piled up 107 yards on 14 attempts at halftime. Taylor’s output in the final two quarters: 9 yards on seven attempts.

“Always making halftime adjustments, division game as well against a tough opponent,’’ he said. “They always play tough. They have great players. We knew it was going to be all four quarters.’’

More Taylor

Taylor is the fourth player in league history with a rushing touchdown and 100 yards from scrimmage in seven straight games. The short list: LaDainian Tomlinson (eight in 2006), Lydell Mitchell (eight from 1975-76) and Larry Johnson (seven in 2005).

The 100-yard game was the eighth of Taylor’s 25-game career, and the Colts are 8-0.

Medical update

Left guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard were able to finish the game despite briefly departing with injuries.

Nelson limped off the field after apparently aggravating an injury to his right ankle late in the second quarter. He returned after missing one play.

Leonard injured his left ankle when he was hit by safety Andrew Sendejo. He returned.

“They totally gutted it out,’’ Reich said. “They’re leaders. Got to be in there. It’s a big division game, got to lay it all out on the line and I thought those guys led the way.’’

Another Wentz on the way

Carson Wentz undoubtedly turned his full attention to wife Madison following the win over the Jaguars. She is expecting the family’s second child, perhaps by Monday.

“He just told me he’ll see me on Wednesday,’’ Reich said with a smile. “All good there. Thankfully that worked out.

“He was confident that as going to work out. The doctors were telling him everything was going to be good, so, just pray for a safe and healthy delivery.’’

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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