Colts’ loss to Jaguars highlights need for Anthony Richardson, but Indy can’t rush rookie

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — During the third quarter of Sunday’s game, Anthony Richardson sat on the bench in the Florida sun sporting a pair of sunglasses and a sling on his right shoulder. It was one of the few moments throughout the game at EverBank Stadium that the Colts’ prized rookie quarterback was by himself. No trainers were checking on him. No coaches were in his ear. No teammates were around to talk to.

It was the first of at least four games when the Colts’ universe didn’t revolve around Richardson. An AC joint sprain didn’t stop him from signing dozens of autographs in his home state before kickoff, but it did stop him from competing. All he could do was watch, a little while by himself in that third quarter, as backup QB Gardner Minshew struggled to generate offense in a 37-20 defeat — the Colts’ ninth straight road loss to the Jaguars dating back to 2014.

“It’s definitely something I think about,” Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said of the losing streak. “I don’t know what it is about this place.”

In years past, there were some defeats that were simply inexplicable. That was not the case Sunday.


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The No. 1 reason the Colts lost was because they were relying on Minshew to be their best player, and unlike the flashes Richardson showed before he was placed on injured reserve, Minshew can’t live up to that billing.

“Personally, I was not good enough,” Minshew said. “I got to be better and give us a chance to win.”

Roughly an hour after the game, as the locker room cleared out, Richardson traded his black sunglasses for a black Colts hoodie that he awkwardly pulled over his head before departing and heading for the team bus.

He might play again this season. He might not. When asked last week about Richardson’s availability moving forward, Colts head coach Shane Steichen didn’t rule one way or the other.

However, one thing is for certain: As long as Indianapolis is without its No. 4 pick, life will be very different.

Pittman, who is in a contract year and could really benefit from Richardson returning sooner rather than later, understands that. He also understands the bigger picture.

“It’s definitely hard because you want to prove to everybody that you’re worth that pick,” Pittman said. “I just told him not to sell himself for the short term, because he’s our guy. He’s our franchise guy. They brought him here to play for the next 15 years, hopefully.”

Pittman finished with nine catches for 109 yards against the Jaguars, marking his seventh career 100-yard receiving game, but it came in didn’t amount to much. The Colts were overmatched, limited at the most important position on the field, with their most important player off it.

Minshew took Richardson’s place, as he had with much success earlier this season, but the Jaguars clearly weren’t afraid of the player they selected in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Minshew captured the heart of Duval County with an improbable, yet impressive rookie campaign that sparked “Minshew Mania” five seasons ago, but on Sunday, many of those same fans were cheering on a Minshew massacre as the Jaguars dared Minshew to beat them with his arm.

“They got some pressure, but at the end of the day, I was careless with the ball,” Minshew said. “I didn’t do a good enough job taking care of it. I put our team in a really bad spot, and it’s not fair to the rest of the guys. So, I’m really going to look at those, hold myself accountable.”

The QB committed four turnovers in a game for the second time in his career, and for the first time since his darling rookie season. The first was a lost fumble. After Jacksonville running back Travis Etienne Jr. plunged in for a 2-yard rushing TD early in the second quarter, Jaguars star linebacker Josh Allen beat Colts left tackle Bernhard Raimann around the edge and strip-sacked Minshew on the Colts’ first play on the ensuing drive. Jacksonville defensive tackle Angelo Blackson recovered the loose ball, and 16 seconds later, Etienne took a direct snap and scored again on a 22-yard TD run that gave the Jaguars a 14-3 lead.

Minshew never settled in after that, throwing interceptions in the second, third and fourth quarters. All three were intended for Pittman, including the last one in which Minshew was picked off in the end zone.

“Jacksonville did some good thing,” Steichen said. “Obviously, it starts with myself. I gotta be better for (Minshew) in those situations.”

Minshew completed 33 of his career-high 55 pass attempts for 329 yards (just 5.9 yards per attempt), despite three completions of at least 40 yards. A better ground game would’ve taken some pressure off his shoulders, but the Colts’ running backs managed just 40 yards on 15 carries. Jonathan Taylor, in his second game back after missing the first month of the season while on the physically unable to perform list, totaled eight carries for 19 yards. He did have a 40-yard reception in the second quarter, though the big plays were few and far between.

“(They were) definitely respecting the run game with a (seven-man) front,” Taylor said. “But our No. 1 thing is we gotta find a way to beat it. If that’s what teams are gonna do, then you need to have a counter plan. You need to be able to find a way to match that.”



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Colts center Ryan Kelly echoed Taylor’s assessment about the Jaguars stacking the box and challenging Indianapolis to beat them with the pass.

“Our idea was to kind of throw them out of it,” Kelly said. “They just never got out of it. I don’t know what to do differently, but second-and-10 is not ideal. We gotta find ways to stay out of that situation. We’ll watch the film and figure it out.”

The film will be helpful, though it likely won’t reveal the answers Kelly is looking for. It’s fair to think Minshew, who entered Sunday’s game with 46 passing touchdowns against 15 interceptions in his career, won’t play as badly as he did against the Jaguars. But the reality is that the limitations in his skill set — most notably his inability to push the ball downfield — further exhibits the Colts’ need for Richardson.

The talented dual-threat rookie piloted Indianapolis out of a 23-0 hole in Week 4 to force overtime against the Rams with his big arm. But until he’s fully healthy, that pilot will just have to watch, much like he did from the sidelines Sunday, as his team struggles to fly without him.

(Top photo of Anthony Richardson: Mike Carlson / Getty Images)

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