Shane Steichen’s baffling Jonathan Taylor decision confuses Colts fans in Week 8 loss

The Indianapolis Colts lost their third straight game on Sunday, and fans are questioning a decision by first-year head coach Shane Steichen.
Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts
Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

It’s safe to say that everyone believes the Indianapolis Colts have the right person at head coach. Hired this offseason after an extensive coaching search by Indianapolis, Shane Steichen has quickly earned the support of the locker room, the fans, and the media. Under his lead, the Colts have been far more competitive than anyone expected, and they also have one of the best offenses in the league. However, none of this makes Steichen immune to questioning.

After Indy’s Week 8 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Steichen is being questioned by fans and media members. Everyone is confused about Steichen’s usage of running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor started the game hot, picking up 66 yards on his first four carries. New Orleans didn’t have much of an answer for him, and everyone who’s familiar with Taylor assumed it was time to witness one of those special performances where he carries Indy to a victory— something he’s done several times in his young career.

That still seemed like the case when the Colts entered the half down 21-20. By that point, Taylor had 11 carries for 94 yards. Down just one point, surely Indy would feed Taylor in the second half and let him run the team to a victory. Wrong. In actuality, Taylor received just one more carry for the remainder of the game, finishing with 12 rushes for 95 yards.

Shane Steichen explains why Jonathan Taylor only got one second-half carry in Week 8 loss

In fairness to Steichen, this loss was on the defense, not the offense. The Colts scored 27 points, Gardner Minshew threw for 213 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, and Zack Moss also added 66 rushing yards on 11 carries. Still, not giving the ball back to one of the best players in the league, when he looked unstoppable everytime he touched it, is confusing.

After the game, Steichen explained that the decision had nothing to do with health. He reasoned that Taylor’s lack of second-half rushing attempts had to do with Moss getting momentum and a lot of passing opportunities for the team. Still, that explanation probably isn’t going to satisfy anyone who was frustrated to see Taylor only get one carry in the second half.

After Steichen rewatches the game, he’ll likely see some opportunities in the second half where he should’ve fed Taylor, and possibly changed the outcome of the game. One of those opportunities was on Indy’s second drive of the second half, down just 21-20. After Zack Moss got the Colts down to New Orleans’ 33-yard line, Indy faced a 2nd & 6. Indianapolis was dominating the Saints on the ground, but instead of sticking with the run, Indy passed the ball.

The result of the play was an interception. Obviously, the interception was Minshew’s fault, not Steichen’s, but there was really no need to go away from the run. New Orleans turned the interception into a seven-play, 70-yard touchdown drive, extending the lead to eight points. On Indy’s very next drive, which started with seven seconds left in the third quarter, the Colts threw three straight passes and went three-and-out. The Saints again responded with a touchdown and the Colts were down 35-20, with Taylor having just one carry in the second half.

There’s a reason why Indianapolis just made Jonathan Taylor the third-highest paid running back in the NFL. That reason was evident in the first half when Taylor ran for 94 yards on just 11 carries. Shane Steichen has to know that when a special player is playing elite, you have to lean on them.