INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Colts running back Zack Moss heard the talk all week.
Two-time league rushing champion Derrick Henry and Tennessee were coming back to a venue where they’d been dominant in recent years. Jonathan Taylor, the 2021 league rushing champ, was returning to game action for the first time since mid-December — with a new three-year contract.
So Moss rewrote the script. He upstaged the two big stars by running for a career-best 165 yards, scoring twice while helping Gardner Minshew and the Indianapolis Colts overcome the loss of injured rookie Anthony Richardson for a 23-16 victory Sunday.
“I just don’t know how he keeps hitting that spin move,” an impressed Taylor said. “I’ve got to add it into my repertoire. You just see how dynamic he is. He’s a tough runner, and then you guys saw today, he has breakaway speed, too, so don’t sleep (on him).”
The Colts (3-2) snapped a seven-game home losing streak by beating the Titans (2-3) for the first time in six tries.
But Richardson’s injury — and his unclear playing status — tainted Indy’s celebration. The rookie, drafted No. 4 overall in April, hurt his right shoulder injury late in the first half when he fell awkwardly to the ground on a 4-yard run with two Titans defenders draped around him.
He stayed down several minutes before walking slowly from the field to the injury tent with his shoulder drooped. Several minutes later, he came out of the tent and walked with the team’s medical personnel into the locker room.
Richardson was ruled out early in the third quarter after going 9 of 12 for 98 yards. Minshew went 11 of 14 for 155 yards, winning for the second time this season in relief of Richardson.
“I don’t, I just know he has the shoulder,” coach Shane Steichen said when asked how serious Richardson’s injury is. “We ran something similar to that last week where he popped the big one and then, obviously, this week, he got the shoulder on that play.
“That’s stuff that you’ve got to look at, be smart with and it’s part of the game and you don’t want it to happen.”
The game itself didn’t follow the traditional plot.
While Moss ran wild, making play after play, Henry and Taylor struggled to revert to their usual form. Henry had 13 carries for 43 yards and was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Colts 5-yard line with 8:03 left in the game, a play he said he expects to make 99 times out of 100.
Taylor was on a snap count and wound up carrying six times for 18 yards.
Moss took full advantage, averaging 7.2 yards on 23 carries and posting his second 100-yard game in three weeks, catching two passes for 30 yards and sliding to keep the clock running instead of scoring a third TD just before the 2-minute warning.
And it came against the league’s No. 4 ranked run defense and a team that had held 10 straight opponents to fewer than 100 yards and that went 20 games between allowing a 100-yard rusher.
“It seemed like whenever they needed to run, they did,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “We watched short runs turn into big plays. It’s certainly frustrating. Our goal on defense is to set the edge, build a wall then swarm and tackle. We just weren’t consistent doing that.”
The inability to contain Moss wasn’t Tennessee’s only problem.
While Ryan Tannehill went 23 of 34 with 264 yards, hooking up with DeAndre Hopkins eight times for a season-best 140 yards, he threw the game-sealing interception in the waning seconds and only got the Titans into the end zone once.
Moss’ two scores, in contrast, were decisive. His 56-yard sprint up the middle late in the first quarter gave Indy a 7-3 lead.
After Tyjae Spears started the second half with a 19-yard TD run to give the Titans a 13-10 lead, Moss answered by powering across from 3 yards out on the ensuing series to make it 17-13.
The Colts put it away by making two more field goals, burning all but 60 seconds following the Henry stop and picking off Tannehill.
“We fight,” Moss said. “Every time we come out on the field, we’re going to give it our best. We’ve got a bunch of dogs on both sides of the ball. when we play complementary football, we’re pretty good.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Titans: Spears’ TD was the first of his career. … Henry nearly had his second TD pass in two weeks, but Hopkins’ left foot was of bounds. … Tennessee is 0-3 on the road this season.
Colts: Indy won its first home game since October 2022. … In addition to the two wins in relief, Minshew started Indy’s other win, at Baltimore. … Rookie Josh Downs caught six passes for 97 yards.
Titans: DT Jeffrey Simmons left in the first half with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.
Colts: In addition to losing Richardson, TE Mo Alie-Cox entered the concussion protocol after his head bounced hard off the turf in the second half.
Titans: Travel to London to face Baltimore next Sunday.
Colts: Head to Jacksonville next Sunday for a rematch with the Jaguars.
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