Zack Moss ready to step in for the injured Jonathan Taylor as Colts make a playoff push

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Zack Moss always knew where he stood on the Indianapolis Colts' depth chart.

When Jonathan Taylor was ready to play, he would be the team's No. 2 running back again.

Still, Moss stayed ready and took advantage of the opportunities he got. Now, with Taylor injured again, Moss will reclaim the starting job that he held for five of Indy's first six games.

“Everyone has a role, that's the beauty of the NFL," Moss said Wednesday. “When your role changes, you've got to be ready to go physically, mentally and just go out there and play. I have great teammates that allow me to go out and do that, so it's not all me.”

Moss and the Colts (6-5) appear to have mastered the art of adaptation.

They lost Taylor for the first four games as he continued his rehabilitation from offseason ankle surgery and now for about three more weeks following surgery Wednesday on his right thumb. Rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson suffered a season-ending right shoulder injury in Week 5, too.

Yet Indy somehow still sits in playoff position.

Gardner Minshew, Richardson's replacement, has won three straight starts for the first time in his career. Moss ranks 10th in the league in rushing (672 yards) and is just outside the top 10 with five TD runs despite missing the season opener with a broken arm and serving as an infrequently used backup the last five weeks. Moss even averages more yards per carry (4.8) than Taylor (4.1) this year.

The timing of this reemergence couldn't be better for Moss, either.

Moss, who has an expiring contract, suddenly finds himself within reach of his first 1,000-yard season. And with Indy holding the AFC's seventh and final playoff spot with six games to play, Moss will be the workhorse RB attempting to take the Colts to the postseason for the first time since 2020.

On Sunday, he'll be lining up against Tennessee (4-7), a team he torched for a career-high 165 yards and two scores in an October victory. Moss also had two receptions for 30 yards in the game.

Naturally, Titans coach Mike Vrabel hasn't forgotten.

“He should be licking his chops after the game he had against us last time,” Vrabel said. "It’s a great example of players that given opportunity, you know, do some great things. He had his workload increased, and he took advantage of his opportunity. And now he’ll obviously probably get more opportunities.”

The Colts certainly are willing to let Moss take the ball and run with it, given what they've already seen. For now, the plan is to use Trey Sermon as Moss’ backup, with no intention to sign another running back. The Colts also have two RBs on the practice squad.

It's clear they expect Taylor to return this season since they opted not to put him on injured reserve, which would have opened up a roster spot but kept Taylor sidelined at least four weeks.

When and how Taylor was injured during Sunday’s 27-20 victory over Tampa Bay remains a mystery. First-year coach Shane Steichen said he wasn't aware Taylor was hurt until Monday night. Moss said he first detected something was wrong at halftime, though he didn't give it a second thought because Taylor's final first-down run allowed Minshew to run out the clock.

The Colts' biggest concerns about Taylor's injury are his ability to grip the ball and pass protect, two things they have no such worries about with Moss as Indy begins its stretch run.

“I think he's very nimble, he's very patient, he crushes the holes and when he gets out in space, he does break it," Steichen said. "It's phenomenal the way he prepares every week, he's a great teammate, he's great in that running back room. He's just done a heck of a job and we're excited about that.”

Moss is eager to show he can continue to excel as a starter and perform well enough to show that what he did earlier this season was no fluke — at least until Taylor returns.

“We did some things the first time, which I’m sure they don’t want to happen again,” Moss said when asked about the rematch with Tennessee. "That’s kind of where my mindset is and I’m sure everybody on the team as well — we’ve got a chance to do some special things this season and we’ve got another step to take.”

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AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.

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