NFL games are typically won and lost in the trenches, and while the success of the pass rush of the Seattle Seahawks will be key to victory in Indianapolis Sunday, expect the run defense to be even more crucial.
Last year, the Indianapolis Colts leaned on Jonathan Taylor to provide the offensive spark many times. While most of us will remember his 253-yard performance in Week 17, Taylor was a consistent force for Indianapolis throughout the year, rushing for 60 or more yards in 9 of fifteen appearances.
When Taylor broke the 60-yard threshold last year, the Colts were 8-2. When he didn’t, they were 3-4. The Colts went 6-1 when Taylor rushed for more than 75 yards, with the lone loss being by three points to the Bills in the Wild Card round.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, had mixed results when allowing similar yardage. While the team went 3-2 when allowing 60 yards or more rushing, they went just 1-2 when allowing more than 75 yards, including succumbing to dominant performances by Wayne Gallman of the Giants and Cam Akers of the Rams, both of whom scrambled for over 130 yards in their respective matchups.
Although the Seahawks were exposed on the ground at times last year, I am a firm believer that they do have a good run defense (although not as good as last year’s yardage statistics may suggest: many teams, like Buffalo, decided not to run against the ‘Hawks because passing up and down the field was just so easy). Of course, how last year’s success translates to the 2021 defense is yet to be seen.
This Sunday, keep an eye on how the Seahawks’ interior linemen, like Poona Ford, Bryan Mone and others hold up against the interior of the Colts line in the run game. Whether or not the Colts’ big men up front can generate holes for Jonathan Taylor to crack 75 yards on the ground is a very good indicator of the outcome of this game, and if the second-year back breaks this threshold, he may very well decide the matchup in Indianapolis’ favor.