ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Jonathan Taylor didn’t only carry the Indianapolis Colts back into the thick of the AFC playoff race — he likely also carried himself into the thick of the MVP race.
Taylor had a career-high 32 carries for 185 yards, and he became just the 18th player in NFL history to score five touchdowns, doing so Sunday in the Colts’ convincing 41-15 victory over the Buffalo Bills. The Colts started the season 1-4, but they’ve since won five of their past six games to move above .500 for the first time this season.
“He’s sending a message to the league,” fellow Colts running back Nyheim Hines said. “It’s been amazing watching him play. Great to watch him finish runs and make people miss. He’s a complete back … If there’s any skill position [for MVP], Jonathan Taylor needs to be in it. Him and [Los Angeles Rams receiver] Cooper Kupp. JT is the first in line for a non-quarterback player.”
The 185 yards moved Taylor to the top of the NFL’s rushing leaderboard (1,122 yards), ahead of Tennessee’s Derrick Henry. Taylor might stay there, too, especially with the possibility of Henry being out the rest of the year with a foot injury.
PlayerTDsYearJonathan Taylor52021Alvin Kamara62020Jamaal Charles5201Clinton Portis52003Shaun Alexander52002James Stewart51997
Taylor is the third-youngest player to have five touchdowns in a game and the third to get all five in just three quarters.
“You get a sense of his confidence,” Colts quarterback Carson Wentz said. “But you never know if you walk right by him in the locker room, in the grocery store or whatever. He’s a low-key guy. He knows what he can do. He’s confident. … The game he had [Sunday], honestly, doesn’t surprise me anymore because every single week he shows up and shows out.”
Taylor, the Colts’ best running back since Hall of Famer Edgerrin James, has taken a load off Wentz’s shoulders because the quarterback doesn’t have to try to carry the team as much. Taylor is only the eighth player since 1950 with 1,200 scrimmage yards in an eight-game span. Taylor also has 29 receptions for 303 yards and a touchdown.
“I love when we try to put attention on him and you can tell he’s uncomfortable,” Colts coach Frank Reich said about Taylor. “I love that feeling. We all like the feeling when somebody [who] doesn’t want the attention feels uncomfortable.”
Reich said earlier this season that Taylor has reached the point where he deserves at least 20 carries a game. Taylor has topped 20 carries in a game just twice this season, with both coming in the past two games.
Taylor not being overworked could pay off because the Colts can lean on him even more down the stretch; four of their final six games are against teams that entered Sunday with a winning record.
“We are hoping that we can just continue to build that workload like in the track and field,” Reich said last week. “Really have a second half of the year that’s stronger and faster than the first half of the year. That would be the goal.”