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Upon Further Review: Why Jonathan Taylor belongs in the MVP conversation, the fix the Bills must make, and Chicago's dead man walking

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As he gashed the Buffalo Bills for 204 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in the Indianapolis Colts’ stunning 41-15 victory on Sunday, running back Jonathan Taylor powered the Colts (6-5) another step forward in their quest to make the playoffs after an 0-3 start.

And Taylor also continued an individual campaign worthy of MVP consideration.

It’s rare that a non-quarterback wins the NFL’s most prestigious individual award, with running back Adrian Peterson the last to do so in 2012. But considering the impact Taylor is having on his team with the dominant performances he has consistently delivered, he certainly belongs in the conversation.

This offseason, the Colts acquired Carson Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles, believing a reunion between the quarterback and coach Frank Reich – Wentz’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia – could propel the Colts further up the ranks of AFC contenders. But Wentz stumbled out of the gates, and Indianapolis’ offense followed his lead.

Feeling the need to ease pressure on his quarterback, Reich turned to Taylor, who in 15 games as a rookie in 2020 compiled 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns.

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Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) avoids the tackle attempt of Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) and outside linebacker Matt Milano (58) during the second half at Highmark Stadium.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) avoids the tackle attempt of Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) and outside linebacker Matt Milano (58) during the second half at Highmark Stadium.

Adapting a run-heavy approach has given Indianapolis’ offense the rhythm that was nonexistent during that 0-3 start. Taylor, who boasts great field vision and decisiveness with his punishing one-cut-and-go style of running, has also set the tone for a hard-nosed, physical mindset as he and his offensive line impose their wills on opponents.

Taylor has been nothing short of dominant.

With 185 rushing yards on 32 carries Sunday, he increased his season total to a league-leading 1,122 yards, a figure that bests that of all active backs – the Tennessee Titans' Derrick Henry is on injured reserve – by 271 yards. His 13 rushing touchdowns also lead the NFL. And Taylor ranks first in the league with 1,444 yards from scrimmage, 308 more than Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who stands in second.

After averaging just 57 rushing yards per game and going scoreless during that 0-3 start, Taylor has capitalized on the offensive shift by steamrolling opponents for 118.9 yards per contest while tallying 13 rushing touchdowns in eight games.

Meanwhile, Reich has achieved his goal of helping Wentz find greater effectiveness through a reduced workload.

In a testament of his confidence in Taylor and commitment to running the ball, Reich on Sunday called his back’s number on 17 of his team’s 28 first downs. Taylor kept delivering.

“Games like he had today don’t surprise me anymore because every single week, he shows up and shows out and makes big plays like this,” Wentz said in a postgame news conference. “He's incredible. I just appreciate that they let me get in on the fun in one of those touchdowns, but he's just a beast.”

Taylor disagreed with the notion that he has given the Colts offense the identity that it badly needed, instead saying he’s simply doing his part as he and his teammates work in harmony.

Taylor is doing a little more than that, however. And given the up-and-down ways that have plagued every single one of the top quarterbacks – from Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers to Josh Allen and even Tom Brady – at various points this season, you could make the argument that Taylor has executed with greater consistency than any of the other leading MVP candidates.

It’s a quarterback-driven league, but while putting the struggling Colts on his back and leading them on a turnaround, Taylor is the exception.

Buffalo’s needed adjustment

Speaking of Buffalo, Sunday’s loss to the Colts represented the second time in three weeks that the Bills – who fell 9-6 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 9 – have been upset while also struggling offensively.

Two interceptions loomed large as Josh Allen mustered just 209 passing yards and two touchdowns. And the Bills managed just 19 first downs while going 5-for-10 on third downs.

Sunday was the third consecutive multiple-turnover game for the Bills and the second multiple-interception outing in three contests for Allen.

As they dropped to 6-4, the Bills slipped out of first place in the AFC East and now trail the 7-4 New England Patriots.

Sean McDermott needs to get his team and quarterback back on track, and he might do well to take a page out of Reich’s playbook and adapt a more balanced approach.

Allen certainly boasts one of the strongest arms in the league, and he can deliver plenty of highlights. But consistency remains an issue, and as of late, the Bills appear to have become too reliant on the quarterback's arm. Allen has fallen into the rut of forcing throws rather than directing the office with greater discipline and decision-making.

It’s probably no coincidence that his effectiveness has waned as balance has gone out the window for Buffalo.

After opening the year by averaging 140.4 rushing yards in each of their first five games, the Bills have now failed to top the century mark in three of their last five games. Buffalo also has yet to have a single 100-yard rusher this season.

The Bills don’t have a workhorse back, and that’s fine. A committee approach featuring Devin Singletary and Zach Moss can work. But there has to be a commitment there to establishing the run to ensure that defenses can’t attack Allen as aggressively as they are now. Buying Allen a few seconds longer to diagnose coverages could position the quarterback for greater effectiveness while restoring the potency of his unit.

Dead man walking?

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy entered the season on the hot seat, and he may have all but sealed his fate after a 16-13 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.

There’s no shame in losing to the Ravens under normal circumstances. But on Sunday, Nagy couldn't even figure out how to direct his team to a victory over a Baltimore team that was without their All-Pro quarterback Lamar Jackson and instead had to rely on backup Tyler Huntley, who had only four cameo appearances to his resume.

The Bears allowed the Ravens to convert on seven of 16 third downs, their inability to get key stops led to an unsightly time-of-possession disadvantage of 38:50 to 21:10. What’s worse: Chicago let Huntley do a pretty good Jackson impersonation as he directed a five-play, 72-yard drive, moving the ball both with his legs and his arm, as Baltimore scored with 22 seconds left to secure the victory.

The offense wasn’t much better for Nagy’s squad. Andy Dalton replaced an injured Justin Fields and threw two touchdown passes, but overall, it was an ugly day for the unit as Chicago suffered its fifth straight loss to fall to 3-7.

Nagy was hired to bring to Chicago the same innovative offensive ways and winning pedigree that he was a part of in Kansas City. But in Year 4, his team has yet to make progress on any front, and losses like Sunday’s simply can’t happen.

It remains to be seen if Nagy will finish out the year, but many within the NFL believe it's virtually a lock that the Bears will be searching for a new coach, and very likely new general manager, this offseason.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jonathan Taylor rockets to forefront of NFL MVP conversation