No matter what mainstream media might tell you, the Colts and Patriots rivalry is very real. The games between these two teams are personal, and it showed on Saturday night.
The head-to-head record doesn’t matter, the quarterbacks don’t matter, one day the head coach won’t matter — although he certainly does right now. When Indianapolis squares off against New England, fans know that both sides will slug to the end - no matter the outcome.
On Saturday night, the Colts had their way with the Patriots in all three phases. They held New England scoreless for three quarters, which hadn’t happened in over 14 years. Then, when it mattered most in the fourth quarter, Indianapolis threw a haymaker that put the Patriots down for good 27-17 — handing New England its first loss since October 17th.
Jonathan Taylor is the NFL MVP
Look, it’s a tough thing to accomplish. Rarely do non-quarterbacks win the NFL MVP award. Realistically, it’s even harder for players on small-market teams to win, because they don’t get many primetime opportunities on a national stage to stand out for the voters.
Still, what Jonathan Taylor is doing right now exemplifies what the NFL MVP Award is all about. He leads the NFL in rushing by a wide margin. He has rushed for 100 yards in eight games this season. The Colts are undefeated in those games. He is tied for second on the team in receptions at 36, and he didn’t even catch a pass the last two weeks. He is third on the team in receiving yards with 336.
He owns, or is tied with, seemingly every meaningful franchise rushing and scoring record for a season with three games to play. This franchise includes Hall of Famers like Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, Eric Dickerson, and Lenny Moore. His numbers are on pace with the six previous running backs to earn the NFL MVP award.
If all of that wasn’t enough, he threw two key blocks in the game. One against a free rusher who was bearing down on Wentz, which led to a long completion to Zach Pascal. The second was his lead block for Nyheim Hines to get the Colts on the board. In short, his impact goes beyond what you can find in a stat sheet.
Oh, and another thing, context matters. This was primetime football against a stout Patriots defense led by Bill Belichick. Belichick has earned a reputation for taking away his opponents’ best strength. He spent the entire bye week planning to stop Jonathan Taylor and couldn’t do it. MVP indeed.
SECONDARY IS SNEAKY GOOD
DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard get a lot of attention. Kenny Moore is starting to get the kind of reputation he deserves, as well. But this secondary is really starting to figure things out.
Rock Ya-Sin has been borderline dominant. Moore absolutely deserves a Pro Bowl nod. Isaiah Rodgers has made a big second-year leap on defense. Rhodes has the freedom to play in a role that suits him at this point in his career, and that’s good for him and the defense.
DARIUS LEONARD IS AN ALL PRO AGAIN
What Darius Leonard has done to this point in his career is incredible. I’ve not seen a player who is so gifted at creating turnovers. For the season, Leonard has 107 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, three quarterback hits, 3 interceptions, 7 passes defended, 6 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries. He played through a nasty ankle injury that plagued him for weeks, and it likely will not be fully healed until the offseason. It’s difficult to imagine where he would be if he didn’t play through the bad ankle.
CARSON WENTZ WILL DEFINE INDY’S PLAYOFF CHANCES
Carson Wentz is athletic. His talent on sneaks, and his ability to gain yards when a play breaks down, allows the offense to remain dynamic. He has the arm strength to put the ball anywhere on the field, and his long average time to throw suggests that he’ll give his receivers time to get open for big plays.
This offense has a nasty ground attack with an offensive line that dominates in the run game. It has a lot of speed and dynamic role players, and a tight end room that knows how to block. It’s an unselfish group that cares most about winning.
What this offense lacks is consistency with the passing game. At times, the passing game looks dominant. Frank Reich has been masterful for stretches. The run-pass option, or RPO, is featured enough to keep things simple.
However, Wentz does occasionally have errant throws or inconsistent mechanics. Making poor choices and being overly aggressive when it isn’t warranted will also lead to mistakes. If Wentz takes care of the ball, and simply takes what the defense gives him, this offense should hum. If so, the running game and opportunistic defense should keep the Colts in any game.
Which Wentz will the Colts get to finish the year? The answer may determine everything.