Make your home page

Zack Moss’ strong performances lead Colts to 2 straight wins, AFC South lead

Running back Zack Moss #21 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates after rushing for a first half touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 24, 2023, in Baltimore. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Colts running back Zack Moss just wanted a chance to prove himself in the NFL.

Now he’s taking full advantage of it.

After missing most of the preseason and Indy’s season opener with a broken forearm, Moss returned last week and took all but one Colts offensive snap at Houston. His encore performance at Baltimore was even more impressive — 30 carries for 122 yards in Indy’s 22-19 overtime win.

Suddenly, the Colts have another solid workhorse back.

“Probably college,” Moss said when asked about his last 30-carry day. “I knew I was going to have to run the ball (because of the wet conditions) and that was going to be big for us to have a chance to win the game. But I couldn’t do anything without the guys up in front of me.”

The Colts (2-1) have won two straight largely because of Moss, who was acquired last year in a midseason deal that sent speedy back Nyheim Hines to Buffalo.

At the time, it looked like a minor move.

But with 2021 NFL rushing champ Jonathan Taylor on the physically unable to perform list following offseason ankle surgery — and in the midst of a contract dispute — Moss has emerged as the top alternative.

Indy used three running backs in a Week 1 loss to defending AFC South champion Jacksonville, getting a combined 16 carries for 25 yards.

Moss took over the next week, running 18 times for 88 yards and a touchdown in the win at Houston. On Sunday, he helped keep Indy close by posting career highs in carries and yards while also catching two passes for 23 yards, including the third TD reception of his career.

Without Moss, the Colts wouldn’t be leading the division.

“It was incredible,” coach Shane Steichen said. “Obviously, he popped the big one there at the end where he cut it back to get us in (field goal) range. Then he had one on our sideline where there were about two or three guys around him where it looked like a minus-yardage play, and then he slipped through those guys.”

Taylor could be activated in two weeks, and when he rejoins the team, Steichen will face one big question: How to use the two fourth-year backs together?

What’s working

Gardner Minshew. Indy’s backup quarterback has been the consummate pro since replacing injured rookie Anthony Richardson in the second quarter at Houston. Aside from stepping out of the end zone for a safety at Baltimore, he’s avoided the kinds of mistakes that usually make teams sputter. And he’s helped the Colts win twice.

What needs help

Finishing drives. Yes, the Colts paid a premium to sign free agent kicker Matt Gay, a move that paid dividends Sunday when Gay made all five field goals, including an NFL single-game record of four from 50 or more yards. The key is to give Gay more chances to kick extra points.

Stock up

CB JuJu Brents. The second-round pick made an impressive debut with his hometown team — four tackles, all solos, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Indy believes the 6-foot-3, 198-pounder has the potential to become an anchor of its young secondary.

Stock down

TE Mo Alie-Cox. The former basketball player once appeared to be emerging as a legitimate receiving threat. He’s struggling to make an impact this season. Through three games, he’s been targeted three times and caught only one pass for 15 yards.


Richardson and three-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly both missed the game (concussion protocol) and it won’t be known until later this week whether either will be cleared.

Key number

27.7 — Indy’s scoring average this season is a marked improvement over last year when it tied for the second-lowest average (17.0 points) in the league. The Colts have topped 20 points in all three games, matching their total from 2022 — and something they never did in consecutive games.

Next steps

While Indy’s offense has found capable replacements for Richardson and Taylor, the defense has been better than advertised. The Colts finished Sunday among the top five in sacks (12) and takeaways (four). If the defense continues playing this way and the offense takes care of the ball, Indy could have a quicker turnaround than anybody anticipated.