INDIANAPOLIS – No matter the score or situation, when your MVP candidate is touching the ball just two times in a stretch that spans nearly half of the game, it’s a problem.
Of course, as we pointed out, the Colts had other (bigger) issues as to why they blew a double-digit lead on Sunday, marking the third time they’ve done such this season.
Still, the involvement of Taylor was odd.
In November, the Colts have been peppering Taylor with consistent reps but when the Bucs shut down the MVP candidate in the first quarter, the Colts decided to alter their game plan.
“We were rolling,” Frank Reich pointed out of the 24-point first half put up by the Colts, in which they threw it 24 times, compared to just 11 runs. “We tried to run it in the first quarter, this is the number one run defense, and we weren’t getting anything. We tried throwing in the second quarter and started having a lot of success. Carson (Wentz) was hot. Called a bunch of RPOs that got to throws because they were throw reads. We come out in the third quarter, we move the ball well in the third quarter. We moved down there twice, we’re moving it well.
“So, I’ll go back and look at it. Felt comfortable that we were executing and moving the ball. We had a few mistakes here and there. Respect to their defense. They stopped us in the run early and then we were able to get it going late. Each drive we were looking at trying to mix it up where we could. Call a couple RPOs early then you get a couple situations where you’re behind the sticks and then thirdly, like I said, Carson was hot. Felt like we were playing well there. That’s just the way it’s going to be sometimes.”
Starting with a two-minute drill to end Sunday’s first half, in which the Colts routinely use Nyheim Hines, they ended up having Wentz drop back to pass on 26 straight plays. Some of those plays included run/pass options, that ended up being high-percentage throws based off Wentz’s decision-making.
That span stretched 26 minutes and saw the Colts end 3 of their 4 drives without points.
Taylor touched the ball twice in that stretch.
Reich said at no point did he realize that Taylor had touched the ball so few times
“Normally someone will say something to me (but) nothing was said to me during that stretch,” Reich said of if he was aware how Taylor was being used.” The reason probably no one was saying anything was because a lot of the things we were calling were working. A lot of them were working against a really good defense. So, I think that’s probably why.”
While the Colts definitely moved the ball despite Taylor hardy touching it in that third quarter, their only points in the second half came when their best player was heavily involved.
It was a fourth-quarter drive—following that 2-touch/26-minute stretch—in which Taylor carried it 8 times for 58 yards
While the Bucs run defense is a strength, chipping away at that unit clearly worked in the final quarter,
Remember, the Bucs entered Sunday having allowed 4 of their last 5 opponents to rush for at least 4.8 yards per carry, so their stoutness up front isn’t a slam dunk, especially when facing a team as strong on the ground as Indianapolis.
The debate over the pass/run split though takes away from the more central topic of the team’s best player barely getting his hands on the ball.
Sure, RPOs can lead to different calls, but Taylor has proven himself to the point where forcing touches to him, and believing that your strength can eventually win, is needed.
That’s what we, finally, saw in the 4th quarter.
Mixing and matching your offensive attack is how Tampa won the game. Their game-winning touchdown drive saw Tom Brady go a perfect 5-of-5 on the drive, while Leonard Fournette had 3 carries for 47 yards
Taylor is too special of a talent—particularly, for an offense void of such playmakers—to not be more involved.
Again, other moments of the game proved to be more critical, but this is something that has to be noted given the lack of points in the second half.
“I didn’t realize that it was that many, because I’m sure we did have ones called and they were probably blitzing the edges or doing different things forcing us to throw the ball,” Reich explained. “JT is our guy. We always want to get him involved, but at the same time, he’s the most selfless guy. So if we’re going to throw it, he’s all in. He’s got to go pick up blitz protection, he’s going to go do it. We still got him on a couple short passes today. Then late, we kind of got him out of it and then late he ran the ball that one drive and go score.
“It’s all about what the defense gives us.”
For an offense that prides itself on being the aggressor and dictating things, the unit got away from that in Sunday’s second half.