INDIANAPOLIS – Jonathan Taylor is doing more than rewriting sections of the Indianapolis Colts’ record book.
He’s forcing Frank Reich to adjust his definition of what constitutes a robust running game.
That was a topic of discussion as Reich walked in on a Sunday meeting at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. Offensive line coach Kevin Strausser and tight ends coach Klayton Adams already were working on the run-game strategy for the Christmas night meeting with the Arizona Cardinals.
Reich offered input.
All right guys, this is the new standard . . . 200 yards is the new standard.
“I never thought I would say that,’’ Reich said Sunday afternoon.
He might have been kidding, but maybe not.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the Colts ended their eight-game losing streak to the New England Patriots by pounding them into submission. Taylor’s 67-yard touchdown delivered the knockout punch with 2:01 remaining in the 27-17 victory.
That long-distance run boosted the Colts’ output to 226 yards on 39 carries.
Not impressed? Consider that was the 24th 200-yard game in the NFL heading into Sunday’s slate. The Colts have accounted for four, and all are in the top 13 single-game performances. The 264 yards at Buffalo rank 2nd while the 260 against the New York Jets rank 3rd.
Need more? The Colts have rushed for at least 200 yards 32 times during their Indy era. They’ve done it 11 times in 62 games since 2018 with Reich running things (pun intended). It took them 543 games to amass the other 21 200-yard games.
Again, Reich has had to reassess his classification of a vibrant ground game.
After 14 games, the Colts are averaging 157 yards per game. That’s their highest per-game output since 1983 (168.4).
“Usually to me, 150 yards is the gold standard,’’ he said. “In my book, 125 is nice. We’d like 125 rushings (and) 150 is a great day. You average 150 yards, you’re going to be in the top 3 or 4 teams rushing.
“We’ve had a bunch of these 200-yard days. That definitely takes it to another level.’’
This is exactly what Taylor has done for the Colts’ running game.
The team’s 2020 second-round pick is in the midst of one of the greatest individual seasons by a running back in team history. Taylor leads the NFL in rushing (1,518 yards), total yards from scrimmage (1,854), rushing touchdowns (a franchise-record 17) and total TDs (19). He’s tied Lenny Moore’s club record with a rushing TD in 11 consecutive games.
And he’s thrown Reich’s standard for rushing proficiency out of whack.
“I really think that’s what someone like JT does do,’’ Reich said. “There are a lot of other backs where maybe this is a 150 game. But yeah, just on that one run alone, which we saw, which was amazing.’’
After reviewing the video from the game, Reich was even more impressed with his second-year back. Play after play, he saw Taylor’s power and relentlessness.
“I texted Chris (Ballard) this morning,’’ Reich said. “There must’ve been about five or six runs that he had that were a 4-yard run or a 5-yard run or an 8-yard run that were incredible. I mean, they’re stacking the box and I’ve got to tell you, it’s a little bit (that) you just have to get used to this. ‘Hey, this guy, he’s that good.’
“I mean, he’s that good.’’
Taylor joined Edgerrin James and Eric Dickerson as the only Colts to reach the 1,500-yard level. His 1,518 yards with three games to play rank 5th in team history and he’s on pace for 1,843, which would obliterate James’ single-season record (1,709).
Rarely, though, has right tackle Braden Smith been able to catch a glimpse of Taylor’s explosiveness.
That was the case on Taylor’s 67-yard TD.
“Really, I don’t see it, but I hear it from the crowd, which was the case yesterday,’’ Smith said. “I just heard the crowd erupt and I was like, ‘He’s gone.’
“It’s definitely a good feeling and I just see him 20 yards down there. You can’t get more excited than that.’’
AFC South update
With the win over the Patriots and Tennessee’s 19-13 loss at Pittsburgh Sunday, the 8-6 Colts trail the 9-5 Titans by one game in the AFC South.
But it’s not that close.
By being swept by the Titans, the Colts actually are two back with three to play.
However, the win over the Patriots boosted the Colts’ chances of making the playoffs as a wild-card entrant to 89%, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. They’re the No. 5 seed.
Reich said safety Andrew Sendejo is in the league’s concussion protocol. He suffered the head injury in the fourth quarter when he collided with Patriots’ wideout N’Keal Harry.
Reich didn’t agree with the officials’ decision to eject wideout Michael Pittman Jr. following a skirmish in the third quarter. New England’s Kyle Dugger also was ejected from the game.
“At first I was a little upset with Pitt because we preach so hard against that,’’ Reich said. “Every game is so critical; this game is super-critical.
“But going back and looking at it on tape – TV copy and tape don’t show everything – it didn’t seem to me warranted, but I don’t know all the details. I’m going to trust the people in New York or whoever makes that final call, but from what I saw and what I could feel out there, I didn’t really think it was warranted.’’
Pittman was blocking Dugger, and things quickly escalated. It got worse when Patriots’ linebacker Kyle Van Noy pushed Pittman from behind. Dugger appeared to throw a punch at Pittman and ripped his helmet off as the two tumbled to the ground.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.