INDIANAPOLIS (AP)The Indianapolis Colts paid Jonathan Taylor like they believe he’s one of the NFL’s top running backs.

Now they need to cash in on their investment.

Eight days after Taylor agreed to a three-year, $42 million contract, the 2021 league rushing champion carried eight times for 19 yards, caught five passes and wasn’t much of a factor in their latest loss at Jacksonville.

Instead of leaning hard Sunday on Indy’s improved ground game, coach Shane Steichen turned quarterback Gardner Minshew loose for 55 passes – a tactic that didn’t work against the Jaguars and likely wouldn’t have worked with rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, either.

“We were running a little bit, throwing it on pass situations a little bit there (early) and like I said, they got some turnovers there and we were trying to get back in it with some of the passes and that’s how it played out,” Steichen said in his initial postgame analysis.

Sure, falling behind early against one of the league’s top run defenses forced Steichen to change the game plan in Minshew’s second start with the Colts (3-3).

But that’s simply not the winning formula for Indy – at least as long as Richardson is out.

The Colts need Taylor to reclaim his workhorse role quickly after missing 10 months while rehabbing from an ankle injury. They also need Zack Moss to continue his breakout season, which propelled him into the league’s top three rushers after five weeks and despite sitting out Week 1 with an injury.

On Sunday, that dynamic duo was missing.

Moss ran seven times for 21 yards and one TD and they combined for 11 receptions and 84 yards, 40 coming on a second-quarter catch by Taylor. Two plays later, Minshew threw the first of three interceptions, and the Jaguars (4-2) converted the turnover into another TD and a 21-3 halftime lead.

“I thought they had a good plan,” Minshew said. “They were base 11 for a lot of it, and when they do that, we do have to make them pay outside. I think we’ll all take that personally as a challenge and I think we’ll respond right away.”

They must if the Colts hope to turn things around when Cleveland (3-2) visits Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

And the solution is simple: The Colts need a stronger commitment to a balanced attack that features their two top uninjured playmakers – Taylor and Moss.

“We’ve got to be efficient doing those things even when we put ourselves in those situations, those holes with the turnovers,” Steichen said. “We’ve got to fight our way out of those things like crazy. I thought our guys fought, but getting ourselves in the hole was a big thing to overcome there.”


Pass rush. Even on a day the Colts struggled, they still pressured Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence effectively. Despite only 33 drop backs, Indy still had three sacks and five quarterback hits and forced Lawrence into an interception before he hurt his left knee while being tackled on a scramble.


Tight ends. The Colts opened the season with five on the active roster. While each has made contributions, none has been a consistent option. For Minshew, Richardson and the Colts to take another step, they need somebody to emerge.


CB JuJu Brents. Injuries slowed his development during the offseason and early this season, but he played his best game of the season at Jacksonville. He had seven tackles, broke up two passes and had an interception. Indy needs Brents to continue progressing to solidify a young secondary.


Offensive line. One week after dominating Tennessee, the Colts struggled. Yes, losing the slippery Richardson and RT Braden Smith (foot and wrist) hurt. But Minshew was under heavy duress most of the game and was sacked three times while Indy averaged just 2.6 yards per carry.


Getting Smith back would help, but Steichen isn’t sure if Smith will return this week. The biggest additions to this week’s injury list are WR Alec Pierce, who hurt his right shoulder in the fourth quarter, and TE Kylen Granson, who entered the concussion protocol after the game. Steichen said team doctors will monitor Pierce throughout the week.


4 – Indy had a season-high four giveaways and one takeaway against the Jags, dropping the Colts’ turnover margin from plus-3 to even.


The Colts exceeded expectations through the first five weeks primarily because they played relatively clean football. That wasn’t the case in Week 6. It is unclear whether it was the Jacksonville curse adding another chapter to this nine-game losing streak or a premonition of what life might look like with Richardson out long term. Still, this is a week that the focus must be on cleaning things up.