Colts run game returns just in time for showdown with high-scoring Philly

Nov. 19—INDIANAPOLIS — Jonathan Taylor made just a single cut, lightning fast, almost as soon as he took the handoff from quarterback Matt Ryan.

Right tackle Braden Smith bulldozed the edge of the Las Vegas Raiders' defensive line, moving them out of the way like a stock boy pushing shopping carts around the parking lot of a big-box store.

With an assist from tight end Mo Alie-Cox to pick up the lone straggler, Taylor burst past the line of scrimmage untouched. He cut back across the field toward the sideline once he reached the second level, and then it was just a footrace.

The Raiders never stood a chance.

Sixty-six yards later, Taylor had his first signature run since Christmas Day nearly one full year ago and the Indianapolis Colts had the enduring highlight of interim head coach Jeff Saturday's debut.

Perhaps the most significant development from the Colts' 25-20 victory in the desert was the rebirth of the offensive line. For the first time this season, Indianapolis (4-5-1) looked like the team it was expected to be.

The Colts rushed for a season-high 207 yards, and Ryan added 222 more through the air. Crucially, he was sacked just once and did not turn the ball over.

All thanks to an offensive line that put together by far its best performance of the season.

"Listen, it's just accountability on all fronts," Saturday said. "Obviously, I know that position specifically, and I have a lot of respect for what those guys have done and the way we've carried ourselves at that position on the team. I believe it needed to be addressed and emphasized. Those guys responded tremendously.

"Again, I know how hard it is. I know how hard these guys work. This was not an effort issue. This is an accountability (issue). This is what it's going to look like play after play after play, and those guys have responded and I think they've appreciated it. Again, I'll hold you accountable. I'll also be a big cheerleader. That's what I was on Sunday and really excited how they responded."

If the offensive line can string together performances like the one it put together in the desert, Indianapolis should be in every game it plays the remainder of the season — beginning with a Sunday showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Former Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni brings the NFL's third-highest scoring offense to town (27.3 points per game), and his former team is well aware of the challenge.

It starts with dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has completed 67.9% of his passes for 2,217 yards with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed for 354 yards and seven more scores.

The Eagles have the league's sixth-ranked rushing attack — led by Miles Sanders with 710 yards and six touchdowns — and a plethora of weapons in the passing game topped by long-time Indianapolis nemesis A.J. Brown (725 yards, six touchdowns) and former Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith (481 yards, three scores).

"They're a really well-powered offense," Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "Obviously, it starts up front with their O-line. They're one of the best in the league, their attention to detail, obviously driving guys off the line of scrimmage, protecting their quarterback. They're a really well-coached, well-disciplined team.

"We have to be on our keys and be able to play fast because they have a lot of zone-reads and little things like that where they catch guys out of their gaps or playing certain reads slow. It gives them the advantage. So we got a lot of stuff obviously as a defense that we have to prepare for. I feel like the guys are up for the challenge."

The Indianapolis offense can aid the cause with another strong running game.

The Washington Commanders upset Philadelphia on Monday night by running the ball often and limiting the Eagles' possessions. It's a blueprint the Colts are sure to attempt to replicate with Taylor running behind a rejuvenated offensive line.

But the home team has to be prepared to do whatever it takes.

"When you play teams like this, you've got to be on the details." Ryan said. "You've got to do the little things right, and you've got to play with great passion and energy. I've also learned that you don't know how games are going to shake out, and it's our responsibility as an offense — whether it's high-scoring, low-scoring or whatever — is to find a way to get the job done. That's what we have to do this week."

The offense has undeniable confidence coming off the win in Las Vegas.

Sunday will provide the first clue as to whether that performance is sustainable and can help carry the team back into the AFC playoff picture.

"I mean, it just shows that we can do it — that we've got it in us," wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said. "Really, when we don't hurt ourselves is really when we can move the ball."