The Colts bruiser is obliterating every other running back this season on the stat sheet — and obliterating defenses on the field.
Over the last 15 years, just two running backs (and two non-quarterbacks in general) have won the NFL’s most valuable player award: Adrian Peterson in 2012 and LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006.
Could Indianapolis Colts star Jonathan Taylor join that elite company this season?
On Sunday, Taylor asserted himself as a major player in this race by rushing for 185 yards and four touchdowns and adding another receiving TD in a 41-15 stomping of the vaunted Buffalo Bills defense. The 22-year-old became the first player in NFL history with at least 175 rushing yards, four rush TDs, and a receiving touchdown in the same game.
The 41st overall pick in last year’s draft, Taylor is absolutely lapping every other running back in the league. His 1,122 rushing yards lead the NFL by nearly 200, and second-place Derrick Henry (937) is unlikely to return this season with a broken foot. Behind Henry? Cleveland’s Nick Chubb, who has 851.
The Wisconsin product is the third player in NFL history with at least 100 yards from scrimmage and a rushing touchdown in at least eight straight games, joining Tomlinson in his 2006 MVP season and Lydell Mitchell in 1975 and ’76. Taylor’s 13 rushing TDs lead the league, as do his 10 runs of 20-plus yards and his three runs of 40-plus yards. His 68 rushes for first downs are 19 clear of second-place Henry.
Taylor scored three TDs in the first half Sunday, putting Indy up 24-7 and in cruise control the rest of the way.
“I decided I was going to run the ball on every first and second down,” Colts head coach Frank Reich told NBC’s Peter King. “Because every time we ran it, good things were happening. Every time we ran it, the pile was moving forward. And when you have Jonathan Taylor on your side, you know the pile’s going to keep moving.”
The New Jersey native became the third player under 23 years of age with at least five TDs in a single game in NFL history, joining Clinton Portis (2003) and Gale Sayers (1965). Taylor also joined Sayers, Shaun Alexander, Abney Hayes, and Dub Jones as the fifth player ever with four rushing touchdowns and a receiving score in the same game.
And somehow, there’s more: Taylor’s just the fourth NFL player since 2000 with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 10 rush TDs in each of his first two pro seasons, joining Portis, Tomlinson, and Peterson.
The difference is that the Indy stallion got it done before Thanksgiving.
While the Colts are now just 6-5 on the season, they’re only a half-game behind Buffalo for the AFC’s final playoff spot — and despite the pass-heavy nature of modern football, an absolute ton of this is due to Taylor’s prodigious play.
When he runs for 100+ yards this season, Indy is 6-0. Under 100? The Colts are 0-5.
With six more games to prove his incredible value, in year two of a four-year, $7.8 million rookie contract, Taylor has a chance to break the mold and become the first non-QB MVP in a decade.