6 Colts players to watch in Sunday’s Patriots game

The Colts might not be the best team the Patriots have faced this season, but they have some solid players on both sides of the ball.

Jonathan Taylor outran the Patriots for the game-sealing touchdown the last time he played them. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In terms of talent, the Patriots’ Week 10 opponent doesn’t matchup with many of their other opponents so far this season. But the Colts have several strong contributors on their roster.

Indianapolis enters Sunday’s game in Germany with a respectable 4-5 record despite backup Gardner Minshew playing for most of the season. Minshew and the Colts are looking to get their second-straight win after ending their three-game losing streak last week.

Here are six Colts players to watch in Sunday’s game.

Jonathan Taylor

The star running back appeared to be getting his top-tier playmaking ability back in recent weeks after he missed the first four games of the season as he rehabbed from ankle surgery. He rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown against the Browns’ top-ranked defense in Week 7 and had 95 yards on 7.9 yards per carry against the Saints a week later.


But the Panthers were able to bottle up Taylor last week. He rushed for just 47 yards on 2.6 yards per carry, though the Colts were still able to win with ease.

Which Taylor will show out on Sunday? Well, the only time the Patriots have faced Taylor, they did an OK job at containing him for much of the game. He rushed for 103 yards but on 3.7 yards per carry on his first 28 rushes of the 2021 matchup between the Patriots and Colts. Taylor’s final run was a big one though, breaking away for a 67-yard touchdown that sealed an Indianapolis win.

The Patriots’ run defense is one of the few things the team’s done well this season, ranking 11th in rushing yards allowed and second in yards per carry allowed (3.5).

Michael Pittman

The Colts have formed a formidable receiver duo this season with Pittman and rookie Josh Downs, who is questionable for Sunday’s game after missing practice all week due to a knee injury.

While it’s unclear if Downs will play, Pittman has appeared to play just fine no matter who’s been at quarterback and who’s been around him at receiver this season. He’s ninth in the league in receptions (58) and 16th in receiving yards (593). In the five games Gardner Minshew has started this season, Pittman has 36 receptions for 373 yards and two touchdowns.


So, Pittman adds to the list of long challenges at wide receiver the Patriots’ defense has had to deal with this season. New England did a good job at slowing down opposing teams’ top receivers until recently. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle both went for over 100 receiving yards in Week 8 while Terry McLaurin had 73 receiving yards and Jahan Dotson had 69 receiving yards plus a touchdown last week.

If Downs is able to go on Sunday, that just adds to the challenge for the Patriots’ secondary, which will be without J.C. Jackson. Downs has emerged in recent weeks, recording 23 receptions on 29 targets for 315 yards and two touchdowns in the four games prior to departing last week’s game early with the injury.

DeForest Buckner and Samson Ebukam

The Colts have gotten strong play out of their defensive line for the last few seasons. This year isn’t much different.

Buckner and Ebukam have helped the Colts record 25 sacks this season, tied for the 10th-best mark in the league. Buckner’s been no stranger to success, earning multiple All-Pros and recording at least 7.5 sacks in each of the last five seasons between his time in Indianapolis and San Francisco.

Buckner’s on pace to have another such season. He’s recorded a team-high five sacks, 36 combined tackles, six tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery with 23 pressures and 17 run stops, per Pro Football Focus. The talented defensive tackle has shown his pass-rushing skills in the Patriots in each of the last two seasons, too. He’s recorded a sack in both games he’s played against the Patriots as a member of the Colts.


Ebukam is new to the mix in Indianapolis. The edge rusher joined the Colts over the offseason after a fine two-year stint with the 49ers. He’s recorded four sacks this season, just one shy of his career-high, with 29 combined tackles, six tackles for loss, and a forced fumble to go with it. He also has 21 pressures and 20 run stops, per PFF, but has struggled a bit in recent weeks, recording just three pressures and no sacks over the last three games.

The Patriots’ offensive line has played notably better over the last few weeks as their decision to start Mike Onwenu at right tackle has paid major dividends. They’ll also catch a bit of a break on Sunday as Colts standout defensive tackle Grover Stewart is still serving a six-game suspension.

Zaire Franklin

There haven’t been many better tackles than Franklin this season.

The sixth-year linebacker has the second-most tackles in the league this season with 102 combined tackles. He also leads the league in tackles per game with 12.8 per game.

Franklin has gotten busy though for the Colts in the run game. He’s recorded 36 run stops this season, which is one of the best marks in the league, per PFF.

Franklin has been dealing with a knee injury as of late though, which forced him to miss last week’s game against the Panthers. He missed a practice and was limited earlier in the week before being a full participant at Friday’s practice, making him questionable for Sunday.

If Franklin can’t go, Shaquille Leonard would seemly step up for the Colts. But the veteran has seen his snaps fluctuate over the last few weeks. Still, Leonard had 10 combined tackles last week despite playing only 55 percent of the snaps.


So, it’ll look like it’ll be tough sledding for Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott, regardless.

Kenny Moore

The Colts have gotten some strong play at all three levels on defense this season, so it isn’t a surprise that they rank 12th in defensive DVOA.

Moore might be the best player on the unit. The corner has three interceptions this season, recording two last week in the Colts’ win over the Panthers. Opposing quarterbacks have had a tough time generating big plays when targeting Moore, too. Moore has allowed 35 receptions on 46 targets for just 292 yards and zero touchdowns to go with his three interceptions this season, per PFF.

Moore, whom the Patriots signed as an undrafted rookie in 2017 before releasing him, had good showings against New England the last two years despite being targeted a lot. He’s given up 13 receptions on 21 targets for 108 yards with two pass breakups in his last two games against the Patriots.

It’s obviously been a major struggle for Mac Jones and the Patriots’ passing game this season. If the struggle continues in Week 10, Moore will likely be a big reason why.


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