Jonathan Taylor Presents Huge Challenge For Patriots (Bill Belichick Knows It)

Taylor leads the NFL in a number of key rushing categories

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December 13, 2021

The Patriots, for now, are the class of the AFC. And while the 7-6 Indianapolis Colts are a tier below New England, Bill Belichick this season rarely has needed to game plan for a difference-maker like Jonathan Taylor.

The 22-year-old running back all but certainly will win AFC Offensive Player of the Year, and he’s among the frontrunners for the NFL MVP award. Indy’s 2020 second-round pick has game-breaking potential that can make even some of the finest skill players blush.

Taylor has a rushing touchdown in every game since Week 4. He leads the NFL with 1,348 rushing yards and 1,684 yards from scrimmage. His 16 touchdowns on the ground — four of which came in one game — also lead the league.

Complicating matters further for opposing defenses is that the Colts also have a high-end secondary back in pass-catching specialist Nyheim Hines.

New England’s rush defense was the NFL’s worst last season but is firmly in the middle of the pack this year. However, if there’s a player who could make the Patriots regress to 2020 levels, it’s Taylor. And Belichick knows facing the Taylor/Hines duo has all the makings of a hectic Saturday for New England.

“I think with a running back like Taylor and Hines is a different type of runner, but he’s also very good, everybody has to understand the ball can go anywhere,” Belichick said Monday morning on WEEI. “It might be designed to go into a certain hole, but that doesn’t really mean anything. Those guys will take it wherever there’s an opening, wherever there’s space. Everybody has to be the their gap. Be in their area of responsibility or we’re looking at giving up a big play. Taylor is really fast. He’s had a lot of long runs. Literally, they can score from anywhere on the field. That’s always a very dangerous situation.”

It’s likely the Patriots will stack the box and hope that players like Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger can help keep the Colts running backs at bay, whether it’s in the rushing or passing game. Relying squarely on linebackers to chase down Taylor and Hines doesn’t seem shrewd.

In such a situation, New England would be banking on its corners being able to handle Indy’s pass-catchers with minimal help, a risk the Patriots should absolutely take if it means being better able to key in on the running backs.

Both teams are coming off their bye week. And while the Patriots were technically “off,” one has to think Belichick spent a significant amount of time in recent days trying to mastermind a scheme for New England to stop Taylor.

After all, the Patriots’ standing as the top team in the AFC might depend on it.

Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
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