Sometimes it’s meaningful, and other times it’s just for the pride factor.
Against the Colts, the Jaguars really didn’t have anything tangible to play for except pride.
The Colts are going to win the division, win or lose in Jacksonville, and the Jaguars are going to have to win a couple of games down the stretch against inferior teams to make the playoffs. Jacksonville will have to face the Colts in Indianapolis sometime in the playoffs if they want to get to the Super Bowl, so this game, in reality and on paper, was meaningless.
But, of course, the game isn’t played on paper.
The Jaguars wanted this game to put them on the map. They want somebody to notice that they’re 9-3 (now four) and a different team than they were a year ago. But the Colts poise and professionalism were too much. Peyton Manning throws it where he wants it every time, and has the time to do it. Marvin Harrison goes to the open spot and doesn’t drop the ball, and Edgerrin James runs methodically, getting those all important four to nine yard runs and allow his offense the flexibility to do a lot of different things.
So where were the turning points that separated the Colts from the Jaguars?
Turnovers were a key as Kyle Brady’s fumbles stopped drives and Garrard’s turnover cost them points with still a quarter to go. But go back to the end of the first half with the Jaguars down 14-3 having stopped Indy’s trick play out of a field goal formation. There were two minutes to play with the ball inside their own five. A couple of handoffs and a QB sneak play, and the Jaguars were punting back to the Colts.
I know they were trying to manage the game, control the clock and keep Manning off the field, but it was pretty obvious at that point that it didn’t matter whether Indy had an 80 yard or a 40 yard field, they were going to move the ball and score. So that’s where the mind set of the coaching staff has to change. Attack the situation at that point. Spread the ball out, go four wide and start moving it down field, or not.
To beat the Colts at this point, it’s going to take a team that’s methodical like Indy, and can, and it willing to throw the ball around. Take the eight to ten yard gains, keep getting first downs and keep frustrating the opponent. With David Garrard at quarterback, the Jaguars have that ability but didn’t seize the moment. Garrard gives them a lot of options, not the least of which is the ability to get the ball out of the pocket without setting his feet. He’s got a big arm and can use it, and his feet get him, and the team out of trouble when it seems that all is lost on a play.
Aggressiveness is always a risk-reward situation and the Jaguars are going to have to accept the risk with the rewards when they get into games against the Colts or other teams who can score, no matter how good your defense is. Perhaps they were lulled into a false confidence after holding Peyton Manning down to just 10 points in their first meeting. Either way, you only hope that the players and the coaching staff do a self-check after this game and move on.
It was a good effort, just not quite good enough.