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Jaguars Performance Review: Colts Still Unbeaten

By Richard Miller
miller-article1The Indianapolis Colts (14-0) handed the Jacksonville Jaguars a second consecutive loss at home Thursday night in a back-and-forth thriller by a score of 35-31.

After the crushing loss, the Jaguars, sitting at 7-7, are still in the hunt for an AFC wild card berth.

The AFC South rivalry game could have been deemed an instant classic at halftime. It was a battle that included seven passing touchdowns, 43 first downs and 714 yards of total offense. There wasn’t even an incomplete pass until the second quarter.

Even with the Colts having home-field advantage wrapped up for the playoffs, head coach Jim Caldwell decided on keeping his starters in for the entire game. Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark performed their typical superstar act. It was theatre at its finest.

After winning only one of three straight home games, Jacksonville next travels to Gillette Stadium on Saturday, December 27, to face the playoff-bound New England Patriots.

Now, on to the Awards…

Key Play of the Game: With less than two minutes remaining, quarterback David Garrard was intercepted by defensive back Jacob Lacey. Peyton Manning took over from there and took three kneels to end the game. The Jaguars clawed until the final whistle. It was a night to remember.

Best Director (goes to Jaguar coach or coordinator): Dirk Koetter, Offensive Coordinator – After a poor offensive outing on Sunday, Koetter had the offense ready to go. Surprisingly, with a short week of preparation, Jacksonville ran 76 plays for 345 total yards. And, the offense converted all four of its red zone attempts. At times, the Jaguars were nearly a mirror image of the Colts’ offense.

Best Jaguar in a Leading Role: David Garrard, starting quarterback – Garrard recovered nicely after a 139-yard passing game against Miami. With his 223 yards through the air, Garrard joins Mark Brunell as the only Jaguar quarterbacks to have multiple 3,000-yard passing seasons. Garrard also tied his season-high of three passing touchdowns, which he did against the Tennessee Titans on October 4. The magic began on the first drive when he quarterbacked a 13-play drive that lasted 7:31. On that drive, Garrard was 5/5 for 31 yards and three passing first downs. He can only take the positives from this game and move forward. Focusing on potential wins over the New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns is vital.

Best Jaguar in a Supporting Role: Maurice Jones-Drew, starting running back – It was merely fitting that Jones-Drew would have his best game since the Jaguars’ last nationally televised football game – the New York Jets on November 22. On 32 touches, Jones-Drew compiled 140 yards and two touchdowns. His second-quarter touchdown run lifted his season total to 15. That score broke Fred Taylor’s 1998 single-season rushing record of 14. Throughout the game, Jones-Drew ran for nine first downs. The Jaguars will need his running the last two weeks of the regular season.

Worst Jaguar: Reggie Nelson, starting safety – He better prepare for a long holiday season. Ignoring the five tackles and a pass deflection, Nelson was playing too deep on multiple passing plays. He missed on a tackle that would have kept tight end Dallas Clark out of the end zone, but, instead, the play went for a 27-yard score. Also, Nelson helped cornerback Derek Cox, who was beaten badly by Reggie Wayne on a pass play, and Nelson did not attempt a tackle on Wayne. Nelson tried to poke the ball out of Wayne’s arms. Wayne, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, marched into the end zone on the game-winning 65-yard catch. Tackling issues continue for the once-named “Eraser.”

Best Colt in a Leading Role: Peyton Manning, starting quarterback – Manning is clearly the best there is. Granted Jacksonville’s secondary needs loads of work, but, Manning led his team with another fourth-quarter comeback. With another MVP-caliber season, Manning completed 23 passes for 308 yards and four passing touchdowns. After Thursday’s performance, Manning ties Dan Marino for second all-time with 21 career games of at least four touchdown passes. In the locker room, once most of the media cleared out, Manning went to all of his offensive linemen and gave them fist pounds and slaps on the back. Those are a few of the many reasons he is respected by his teammates.

Best Colt in a Supporting Role: Reggie Wayne, starting wide receiver – Two weeks ago, I wrote, “I still consider (Andre) Johnson the best wide receiver in the league.” I have semi-rethought that to make Wayne and Johnson tied at the top. They are 1a. and 1b. Wayne’s 132-yard game was the highlight of a receiving corps, which also had Dallas Clark and Austin Collie playing central roles. Wayne has simply replaced Colts legend Marvin Harrison. And, I don’t think too many people have noticed. That is darn impressive.

Best Sound Editing: “I don’t have any question about it. Anytime he gets the opportunity to get single coverage, he is going to do some damage and sometimes when there is some double coverage, too. He was on tonight and did a great job. Reggie was close to breaking Raymond Berry’s record for yardage. Anytime your name is mentioned with Raymond Berry, it is quite an accomplishment. He deserved it. He’s a heck of a competitor.” – Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell on wide receiver Reggie Wayne having a big night against the Jaguars.

Best Animated Short (goes to the player with the most passion on the field): Mike Sims-Walker, starting wide receiver – With what seemed like a fully-healed left calf muscle, Sims-Walker was able to get the crowd involved almost immediately. On the first drive, he caught three balls, all of which went for first downs, for 24 yards. Sims-Walker’s celebrations after the catch remind me of Jimmy Smith’s or Keenan McCardell’s. More importantly, Sims-Walker joins those two former Jaguars as the only receivers in Jacksonville history to have 800 receiving yards in a season. Sims-Walker is a key component for this team looking ahead.
Tweet of the Week (Twitter post): “I gotta feeling, woooooowhooooo that tonights gonna be a good nite, that tonights gonna be a good nite! (Black eye peas voice)!!!” – wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker on Thursday, December 17, before the Colts game.

Jaguar inactives:
Safety Courtney Greene
Linebacker Clint Ingram (shoulder)
Offensive lineman Paul McQuistan
Defensive end Greg Peterson
Offensive tackle Tra Thomas
Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood
Defensive end Julius Williams (knee)
Defensive end James Wyche

Other Jaguar notes:

The Jacksonville defense intercepted Peyton Manning once, deflected five of his passes and never sacked him.

Linebacker Russell Allen, who contributed six total tackles, started for Clint Ingram.

Middle linebacker Daryl Smith deflected one pass and intercepted a Manning pass intended for receiver Austin Collie.

To start the game, defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison replaced Quentin Groves at defensive end. Ellison and Groves were both left off the stat sheet.

After missing four games with a groin injury, cornerback Rashean Mathis returned to make four solo tackles.

Fullback and special-teams monster Montell Owens started in place of Greg Jones, who went on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

In the third quarter, rookie Mike Thomas caught the first touchdown of his career. The 13-yard reception was one of two catches he had for 20 yards.
Even though he was targeted eight times, Torry Holt made three grabs for 38 yards.

Tight end Marcedes Lewis was overthrown three times, but reeled in four balls, one of which went for 25 yards.

Backup offensive tackle Jordan Black reported into the game as an eligible receiver a career-high 18 times. His primary duty is to be an extra blocker for Maurice Jones-Drew.

Kicker Josh Scobee was 1/2 on field goals. He nailed a 50-yarder to culminate the first drive. Before halftime, Scobee missed a 57-yard attempt short primarily because of the northeast wind blowing at him.

Tickets distributed for the game was 63,753.

The turnstile count was 61,435.

3 Responses »

  1. Excuse me, but the Patriots have not clinched a playoff spot yet

  2. What a great game. Filled with excitement. Could have had a better ending.
    Definitely a night game to remember.

  3. David Garrard better be looking over his shoulder. Tim's a-coming! Tebow - Tebow - Tebow !