INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts got away from their identity Sunday, and it cost them.
The team leaned into a hot start through the air and called 46 pass attempts for 38-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers. That’s a bit like feeding a mogwai after midnight. It’s not a question of if trouble will follow but how much damage will be done?
In this case, the final tally was a pair of interceptions – including one head coach Frank Reich steadfastly took the blame for – that led to 10 Jacksonville points. But the real problem on offense was an inability to finish drives.
Indianapolis had three trips inside the Jaguars’ 30-yard line come up empty – ending with a stuffed run on fourth-and-1 from the 3, a failed 30-yard field goal attempt and a dropped fourth-down pass on the team’s final offensive snap.
There are several remedies for an ailing red-zone attack, but the Colts might favor a return to bully ball.
“There’s still something about the physicality of the run game that dictates the tempo and the feel of the game,” Reich said during his weekly Monday media availability. “And that’s where we need to be more patient with the run game. I need to continue to call runs even though I know we can be dynamic in the pass game.”
The Colts gained just 88 yards on 22 carries in the 27-20 loss at Jacksonville, and the task figures to get more difficult after Reich confirmed Monday starter Marlon Mack has a ruptured Achilles’ tendon and will miss the remainder of the season.
Arguably Indianapolis’ offensive MVP in 2019, Mack rushed for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract and seemed poised for a big season after a strong showing in training camp.
Indeed, Mack gained 26 yards on just four carries and had three catches for 30 yards before being injured on a 3-yard reception midway through the second quarter.
“That’s really unfortunate," Reich said. “Marlon is beloved in our locker room. … He’s a true Colt, and he was just looking so good in training camp and even in his few snaps yesterday. He just looks like lightning, man. He just looked like lightning out there. It’s just very unfortunate, very bad timing for him and his family.”
Reich also confirmed Monday rookie Jonathan Taylor will take over the starting role.
A second-round pick out of Wisconsin, Taylor is the only running back in major college football history to record 6,000 career rushing yards in just three seasons.
He had nine carries for 22 yards and caught six passes for 67 yards in his NFL debut. Nyheim Hines will continue to play a significant role in the backfield, and Jordan Wilkins should see his first action of the season this week.
But Reich made it clear Taylor now sits at the head of the committee.
“Jonathan’s gotta come in and just take ownership of the position,” Reich said. “We’re still gonna rotate guys through, but Jonathan’s gotta be the lead dog and have that mindset and have that confidence, and I know he’ll do that.”
He should also bring some of that physicality Reich is craving.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 226 pounds with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, Taylor brings a unique set of skills to the backfield.
“You can feel not only his speed on the field, but you can feel his size,” Reich said. “So that combination, right, of speed and size equals power or force, and I think we’re gonna see that. I think we’ll feel that. It’ll add to what is already a very physical offensive line. But the great thing with Jonathan, unlike a lot of backs who bring that physicality, Jonathan also brings breakaway speed.
“So, what I’m hoping that we see – and this is why we gotta continue to call more runs, that I have to continue to call more runs – is that you get a guy who can be a workhorse back like that – and Marlon was like this as well – the more times you give it to them, the better they’re gonna get, the more confidence they’re gonna get. So that’s gonna be another reason why we have to continue to feed the running game.”