The question all week was “Can we beat the Colts.” The answer was easy. “If they play like they have been, they can win.” The problem is, they didn’t play anything like they’re capable of playing.
Indianapolis had been struggling on both offense and defense. Peyton Manning didn’t have all of his regulars and even his new star, Austin Collie was just returning from a concussion. Manning likes to play the Jaguars, particularly when their defense is ranked 29th against the pass. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when he marched the Colts downfield on their first possession, hitting Collie in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
The Jaguars responded with a field goal, but that’s never enough against Indy. You have to score TD’s when you have a chance. So when Manning hit Collie again for a TD, wide open down the middle seam, the Colts lead 14-3.
Indianapolis clearly was concentrating on stopping the run, the Jaguars bread and butter and did just that, holding Maurice Jones Drew for under 100 yards (actually 46. his lowest ever against the Colts) and ran the ball themselves. They’d be averaging just 80 yards a game on the ground, this week they ground out 155 against the Jaguars.
Mike Thomas returned a punt 78-yards for a TD to cut the lead to four, 14-10 and it seemed the momentum was changing. (Some Colts claimed Thomas signaled for a fair catch but the officials said no).
That’s when Jack Del Rio made a move that could be debated for a long time as the game-changing, season-changing call. On 4th and 1 from their own 39-yard line, Del Rio said go for it. I don’t mind the bravado that comes along with that call or the confidence it shows in his team. That’s Jack. He’s been making that call ever since he became a head coach. But I hated the call, a toss-sweep that gives the defense a chance to adjust. That leaves a chance for too many guys to make a play and that’s just what happened. MJD was hit behind the line, mis-handled the toss and fumbled the ball. The Jaguars turn it over on downs and the Colts do just what the Colts always do, they took advantage of the situation. Donald Brown ripped off a 40 yard TD run to give the Colts a 21-10.
But showing their resiliency, the Jaguars started marching right down the field looking to make a game of it. That’s when Garrard sailed one over Jason Hill’s head and into the arms of Antone Bethea for an interception and a field goal for the Colts going the other way, 24-10. That’s the throw that makes the difference in the game. A completion and it’s for 20 yards, a first down and keeps the Colts on their heels. Instead it changes the momentum of the game and keeps Indy in control. Garrard just flat out has to make that throw. He picked the right guy, he made the right read, but he just didn’t get the job done at THE most critical time.
Maybe that’s harsh but Garrard is one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league. He’s paid at that level to make that play.
But he didn’t.
Yes they hung in there and kept it close but the outcome seemed inevitable from that point on. The on-side kick returned for a TD sealed it, 34-14.
It’s disappointing for Jaguars fans because they were hoping to get excited about this team. It’s an easy team to like from a personality standpoint but the up and down nature of their performances are enough to drive people crazy. They have two games left, at home against Washington and then on the road to finish the year against the Texans. Wins there and a 10-6 record isn’t bad, but might not make the playoffs.
So all is not lost, but that opportunity to establish themselves as a contender instead of pretenders is gone. As Jack said, “if we’re going to beat these guys, we’ve got to be able to get that one tough yard. We had two chances at that today and didn’t get it done.”