INDIANAPOLIS – Jonathan Taylor was keenly aware of the situation.
The Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line again would be a patchwork unit in Sunday’s meeting with the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock stadium. Right tackle Braden Smith missed his third game with a strained foot and left guard Quenton Nelson missed his first game after 54 consecutive starts with a high sprain to his right ankle that sent him to the injured reserve list.
And Taylor realized quarterback Carson Wentz, while better on his two sprained ankles, still wasn’t 100%.
Taylor stepped up.
“One thing I told Carson and the o-line today is I had their back,’’ Taylor he said after the Colts’ 27-17 win. “These past few weeks we’ve been playing hard, but we just haven’t been playing our best.
“Just told those guys, ‘Hey, no matter what happens today, I’ve got your back. I’m going to run hard.’’’
Done and done.
Taylor finished with 103 yards on just 16 carries. It was the fourth 100-yard game of his 19-game career, and he joined Edgerrin James, Marshall Faulk and Dominic Rhodes with four in their first 19 games.
Taylor notched his first TD of the season with a 23-yarder in the second quarter when he turned the left corner, stepped out of a tackle attempt by safety Eric Rowe and shrugged off Jason McCourty at the left pylon. His 38-yard run on the first play of the third quarter was his longest of the season.
“That was big,’’ Frank Reich said. “I felt like he’s been right on the precipice of breaking out a couple of times.’’
The Colts’ ability to grab a 7-3 halftime lead – their first halftime lead of the season – enabled Frank Reich to stick with the run game. Taylor and Marlon Mack combined for 39 yards on seven carries in the first two quarters. After the break, Taylor, Mack and Nyheim Hines had 92 yards on 21 attempts.
“The o-line did a good job,’’ Reich said. “We started off a little bit shaky but just hung in there with the defense playing the way it was playing.
“We were able to keep calling runs. Jonathan just did a great job and really had another one called back.’’
That was a 14-yard gain in the second quarter wiped out by a holding penalty against wideout Zach Pascal.
The 139 rushing yards were a season-high by the Colts, who entered the game ranked 19th in the league (103 yards per game).
“We’ve got to build off of that,’’ Reich said. “Happy for Jonathan, happy for the o-line the way they played. But we’ve got to build off of that.’’
Wentz snaps personal skid
For those keeping track at home, Wentz won as a starter for the first time since week 8 of last season when he led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 23-9 decision over Dallas. He had lost seven straight.
And it was obvious he was aware of the personal drought.
“I feel like I got the monkey off my back a little bit, for me and the team,’’ Wentz said. “Made some plays on the field. Got some breaks with turnovers and penalties that kept some drives alive, but huge win for us.’’
After lacking any mobility in the week 3 loss to the Tennessee Titans because of his two sprained ankles, Wentz was closer to himself. Excluding the three kneel downs to end the game, he rushed twice for 12 yards and extended plays in the pocket and pushed the football down the field. His had five completions of at least 20 yards, including a 41-yarder to Zach Pascal.
On a late drive that saw the Colts drain the final 4 minutes, 24 seconds off the clock, Wentz connected with tight end Jack Doyle for 24 yards on third-and-4 and with wideout Michael Pittman Jr. for 20 yards on third-and-14.
His 115.1 passer rating was a season high.
About that Wentz keeper
The best example that Wentz had recaptured a good portion of his mobility occurred early in the second quarter and with the Colts facing a second-and-8 at their own 3-yard line. He faked a handoff to Taylor, kept the football and headed around right end for a 10-yard gain.
Wentz did much more on the play that Reich anticipated.
“Really, I called bootleg, and I said, ‘If it’s not there right now, take a short sack, right? We’ll let the clock run, punt it,’’’ Reich said.
After Wentz’s third-down conversion, he heard from his head coach through the headset in his helmet.
“I had a few words with him,’’ Reich said with a smile. “I said, ‘Hey, what happened to the short sack?’ He said, ‘Well, I wasn’t down. I was prepared to go down . . .’ but he knew he could get away.
“Those are the kinds of plays that he can make that really help lead clutch ballgames.’’
Added Wentz: “He said take a short sack other than throw it away. I said, ‘I made the guy miss and I got the first down instead.’ So we chuckled about it, that’s for sure.’’
So, that’s a lead
The Colts entered the game having had the lead for 6 minutes, 18 seconds, the second-fewest in the league.
Sunday, they took a 7-3 lead at the 2:47 mark of the second quarter on Taylor’s 23-yard TD run, and never looked back. They would hold the lead for the final 32 minutes, 47 seconds.
False alarm on Kelly
It appeared the Colts’ offensive line took another hit in the closing minutes. Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly limped to the sideline and kept reaching for his right foot.
Another injury to the injury-plagued unit? Nope.
Reich said Kelly “just blew out his shoe.’’
Pittman still at it
Pittman led the Colts with six receptions and 59 yards. His 279 yards are the most by a Colt wideout in the first four games since T.Y. Hilton in 2018 (294). Pittman has had at least six catches in three straight games. The last time a Colt wideout accomplished that feat: Hilton in weeks 11-14 of ’18.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.
CORRECTION: The story originally stated that Carson Wentz had lost eight straight game, with his last win coming in week 13 of last season against Washington. A correction has been made to show that he had lost seven straight, and his last win was week 8 of last season against Dallas.