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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew runs with the football past Eagles defensive tackle Marvin Wilson in the third quarter during a preseason game on Thursday, August 24, 2023 in Philadelphia. (Tribune Content Agency)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew runs with the football past Eagles defensive tackle Marvin Wilson in the third quarter during a preseason game on Thursday, August 24, 2023 in Philadelphia. (Tribune Content Agency)

Minshew provides relief in Colts’ 31-20 rout of the Texans, but injuries dominate the day

Anthony Richardson's injury makes the long-term vision for this team murkier

Indianapolis marched into NRG Stadium and took care of the Houston Texans early and often, starting with a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped by an Anthony Richardson 18-yard scamper and ending with a 31-20 victory.

The win, though, didn’t come without two major bruises for the Colts.

Richardson left in the second quarter and has been diagnosed with a concussion while his center, three-time Pro Bowler Ryan Kelly, met the same fate also being diagnosed with a concussion, leaving in the third quarter. Richardson’s replacement, Gardner Minshew, completed 19 of his 23 attempts for 171 yards and added a touchdown to Kylen Granson that put the Colts up 28-10. Second-year center Wesley French replaced Kelly at the helm of the offensive line.

Minshew will now be looked upon to handle the quarterbacking duties with the severity of Richardson’s injury unknown. Minshew has a career 9-16 record with a 45-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Richardson’s injury will slightly change the playbook for Shane Steichen and Jim Bob Cooter as Minshew doesn’t possess the same physical attributes as the rookie standout. 

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’s second touchdown, the play during which he seemingly sustained his concussion, put the Colts ahead by two scores. The play was set up via a Samson Ebukam strip sack against C.J. Stroud who has now lost two fumbles in as many weeks. Stroud and the Texans answered quickly with a Nico Collins 8-yard touchdown grab. After two 3-and-outs from each team the Colts found paydirt again, this time off right tackle via Zack Moss, his first score as a Colt. Following a Texans field goal, the Granson score and a pair of field goals from each team, Tank Dell closed out the scoring catching his first NFL touchdown from 23 yards.

The narrative from last week revolved around the lack of production from the running back room and the absence of Jonathan Taylor. Deon Jackson fumbled the ball twice and the team averaged 2.5 yards per carry.

Moss returned and the change on the ground was palpable.

Moss carried the ball 18 times and notched 88 yards along with his six points, a much needed alteration from week one. Richardson added 35 on the ground on three rushes before his injury, one that eliminated the dual threat action from the Colts offense.

The team now must look forward at what the upcoming games could look like with two of the most important offensive pieces with Richardson and Kelly looking at probable multi-week absences. The team travels to Baltimore next Sunday to face the Ravens and the explosive offense led by 2019 unanimous MVP Lamar Jackson. The defense, which recorded a takeaway, six sacks and 10 tackles for loss Sunday, must be firing on all cylinders to handle what Todd Monken will throw their way. Baltimore will enter the game at M&T Bank Stadium 2-0 after a gritty 27-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in week two.

The optimism for this Colts team is evident and justified. The team battled two AFC South opponents and left 1-1. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who the Colts led deep into the fourth quarter last week, competed and lost in a one-score game to the reigning Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs this week. The concern surrounding this team, in addition to the continuing situation with Taylor, is the severity of Richardson’s concussion. 

Minshew will be serviceable, and could even help this team win games in Richardson’s absence, but for this team to succeed in the long run Richardson will have to understand how to protect himself, which is a thought that has surrounded every Colts fan for the past decade. Chuck Pagano, Bruce Arians and Frank Reich all failed in figuring out how to protect Andrew Luck from defenders and himself. 

This is a battle that Shane Steichen can’t afford to lose.

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