Just three days removed from that Monday night debacle that led to a despicable collapse on the road against the Baltimore Ravens, there's still a bad feeling around the Indianapolis Colts, at least ahead of the Week 6 matchup against the Houston Texans.
That bad feeling overall doesn't stretch to standout second-year offensive pieces in running back Jonathan Taylor and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. Over the last three weeks the pairing has really developing into key pieces under head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, taking star turns overall.
Taylor had great rookie season, rushing for more than 1,000 yards, closing the season in impressive fashion with a 253-yard performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Pittman Jr. had an up and down rookie season, closing strong with a five-catch, 90-yard performance in the playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Through five weeks of the 2021 season, the two have emerged as key offensive pieces on the Colts' offense, helping carry the load overall for the 1-4 Colts.
Coming off of a fantastic Monday night showing for the duo in which Taylor had 18 touches for 169 total yards and two touchdowns and Pittman Jr. posted a six-catch, 89-yard, one touchdown stat line, the pairing received high praise from Reich and quarterback Carson Wentz, giving the Colts something positive at the very least to talk about after the disappointment experienced on Monday night.
“Very encouraged by both of those guys," Reich said during his media availability Wednesday, according to Colts.com. "You guys know, you’ve seen it. Pitt (Michael Pittman Jr.) just provides big-time playmaking ability and the other thing he provides is a mental toughness that I think the team feels. We all feel that, like when he makes plays like he made out there on Monday night, I think we feed off that. Then Jonathan (Taylor), he’s also a big-time playmaker. We all know to be consistently successful you need explosive plays in your offense. Those guys provide that for us and we as coaches need to continue to do a good job of putting them in opportunities to create explosive plays for us.”
There's no denying that the Colts feed off of the two making plays, especially in the last two weeks as Taylor recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of the season in Week 4 against the Miami Dolphins prior to making a statement with his 76-yard catch-and-run on the Colts' first offensive possession of the game. As for Pittman Jr., he recorded his third straight six-catch game, quickly developing into exactly what the Colts thought he could be coming out of USC in the 2020 NFL Draft: a big, physical, possession receiver that could occasionally win contested catches down the field.
“Yeah, that’s something we knew about him even coming in," Reich added about Pittman Jr. "You could see it on his college tape. You could feel it on his college tape. Then, that was quickly confirmed in week one of being here when he first walked in the door. Then you talk to him and at first you think – he’s just got a tough-guy mentality. He’s got a tough-guy mentality, it comes through in everything he does.”
Wentz had the best seat in the house on Monday night for Taylor and Pittman Jr.'s true coming-out party. While he's worked with Pittman Jr. all offseason, throwing on high school fields to try and get up to speed with one of his top receivers, Wentz had to wait until OTAs and training camp to see just how special Taylor was in the backfield.
Monday night was a good reminder for Wentz that he has ample talent around him as the offense continues to find its stride.
“I think with both of those guys and really as an offense, everybody is starting to gel and kind of find their role in where we all fit together," Wentz said during his media availability Wednesday, according to Colts.com. "(Michael) Pittman’s done a great job every week. He always brings physicality. He’s going to be competitive to the catch and try and run through arm-tackles and all that stuff. He’s not afraid to go down and block, but you start to see some more of these big plays from him and that’s who I think he is and that’s who I expect him to continue to be. Then JT (Jonathan Taylor), I mean, you guys all saw what he did last year as the season went on and the type of runner he is. He’s special now. He’s dynamic out in space, you saw that on the screen play. He caught a ball out of the backfield on a shallow route. He can do more than just your standard downhill run game. He’s dynamic and a big part of what we do.”
The two will continue to remain a big part of what the Colts do offensively, especially as Wentz gets more and more comfortable, the offensive line continues to gel and see some key players return from injury, and star receiver T.Y. Hilton works his way back into the fold.
It might not look pretty always, but this offense is closing to truly taking off, and that's in no small part to the roles Taylor and Pittman Jr. are playing.
Have thoughts on the play of Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. through five weeks of the season for the Indianapolis Colts? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel!