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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5 ) warms up before a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Aug. 24, 2023, in Philadelphia. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images/TNS)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5 ) warms up before a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Aug. 24, 2023, in Philadelphia. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images/TNS)

Richardson exceeds expectations in debut while ghost of Taylor past haunts the Colts in 31-21 loss to Jaguars

The rookie had an outstanding debut as the Colts fell short to their division rival

It took Michael Vick nine games into his career to become the youngest quarterback in NFL history with a passing and rushing touchdown in the same game at the age of 22. 

Anthony Richardson needed less than four minutes of the second half and 40 evasive yards after the catch from Michael Pittman Jr. to assert himself as now the youngest quarterback to achieve the feat at the age of 21. Richardson added his rushing touchdown on the first play of the second quarter from two yards out which would even the Colts at 7-7 in the eventual 31-21 loss to the division rival Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jacksonville started the scoring following the Colts’ second three-and-out on a nine-play, 61-yard drive which was capped off by Calvin Ridley’s first touchdown in 686 days. Ridley was a problem consistently throughout the game for the Colts, racking up eight receptions for 101 yards accompanied by his score.

The Colts’ fresh secondary without cornerstone Stephon Gilmore and the reliable Isaiah Rodgers played well in spurts, including Tony Brown’s interception of Trevor Lawrence off the hands of rookie Tank Bigsby, but allowed Lawrence to score twice through the air with a 75% completion percentage. 

The drop by Bigsby and subsequent interception ultimately was not his only rookie mistake of the day.

Late in the third quarter, DeForest Buckner sacked Lawrence, which forced the ball out of his grasp. The unorthodox release of the ball seemed to the players on the field to be an incomplete pass, but a heads-up play by Zaire Franklin forced the ball away from an oblivious Bigsby and Buckner recovered it and scored in one of the most unusual plays fans will see all season.

The Jaguars were not the only team at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday who struggled with fumbles. Deon Jackson, starting as the replacement for Jonathan Taylor, coughed the ball up on two separate occasions. Neither fumble resulted in points for the Jaguars, but flashed the overarching issue the Colts will struggle with if Taylor does not return healthy and paid.

The team compiled 65 rushing yards on 26 carries for an average of 2.5 yards per carry. The Jaguars were in the bottom half of the league last season in rushing yards allowed, but it was evident that missing the Colts’ all-pro back is the hurdle this team will have to address. In Taylor’s last four games against Jacksonville he has averaged over six yards a carry.

Forty of those 65 rush yards came from Richardson, but as evidenced by his removal in the game late in the fourth quarter for an injury, the team can’t rely on him to carry the rushing workload going forward. Richardson also had a costly turnover in this game as he seemed to not see Tyson Campbell lurking in zone coverage. The turnover, with five minutes remaining in the game, allowed Travis Etienne to explode for a 26-yard touchdown which put the AFC South frontrunners up two scores.

This game showcased plenty of reasons for optimism from Richardson, the defensive line which had sacks from Buckner and Kwity Paye, and Pittman Jr. seemingly to have stepped up to another level. This game also raised significant questions for head coach Shane Steichen and general manager Chris Ballard about what the running back room is going to look like for the foreseeable future.

The Colts will be in Houston for another AFC South battle next week against the Texans featuring quarterback C.J. Stroud, who was taken two picks ahead of Richardson in this year's draft. Stroud struggled in a 25-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in a week one matchup, throwing for 242 yards and fumbling once.

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