When you go back and read Matt Grecco's game preview for Week Four, it was pretty prophetic:
I don't know about you, but every time the Colts play the Jaguars, I'm infuriated at the fact that the Jaguars convert 3rd down after 3rd down by 2 or less yards. It's like death by paper cuts. Despite being pretty poor at Drive Success Rate (DSR), they are pretty good at the other drive-related stats: Time of Possession / Drive, First Downs / Drive, and Plays / Drive. The quickest way to get Jacksonville out of the game is to get them off the field on 3rd Down. Oh, and watch for the 6 yard hitch patterns on the outside on 3rd and 5. I call it the Tim Jennings Special.
After the game, when reporters were asking Peyton Manning about how the Colts lost to the Jaguars 31-28, Manning stated that after the first Jacksonville drive (9 plays, 76 yards, 5:05 time of possession) ended with a 25-yard David Garrard touchdown run that Indy's offense felt that they would get few possessions during the game and needed to make the most of them.
Translation: Peyton knew the Colts defense was going to stink the joint up, and the offense had to play near perfect football for the team to have a chance.
Unfortunately for the Colts, they didn't play perfect football. Two turnovers in the redzone cost the Colts points, one a ball tipped and intercepted off Brody Eldridge's fingers, and the other a fumble by Reggie Wayne. But turnovers in the redzone were not what lost this game for Indy. Despite the fumble and the INT, the offense scored 28 points and moved the ball seemingly at will against the Jags. Heck, even the running game looked halfway decent (4 yards per carry by Joseph Addai, along with two TDs).
What lost the game was the Colts woeful defensive effort. Soon, this team (and these players) need to start playing up to their potential (and their contracts). Otherwise, booes from the Lucas Oil gallery will greet the defending AFC Champions on a more frequent basis.
A post later today will delve more deeply into Colts head coach Jim Caldwell's seemingly odd decision to call timeout with 36 seconds left and the Jaguars trying to run clock to get the game into overtime, tied 28-28. For now, we will focus on how the game was tied in the first place, because it shouldn't have been. Prior to Week Four, the Jaguars had only scored an average of 13 ppg. They had the 30th ranked offense in football, and their quarterback David Garrard had just one touchdown and 5 INTs.
Against the Colts defense, the Jags dropped 31 points on them, including two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown by Garrard. He also committed zero turnovers and was not sacked.
The Jags were 9 of 13 on third down (69%) and ran for 174 yards. But more telling than their rushing yards or their third down conversation rate was their red zone efficiency. The Jags were 3-3 in the red zone, meaning that they were able to cap their long, time consuming drives with touchdowns.
For the Colts offense, it was another near prolific day for Peyton Manning. Just when you think you've seen it all, Manning does it again. With little more than two minutes left in regulation, after witnessing his defense play dumb football on the previous series and surrender a touchdown to Maurice Jones-Drew, Manning drove his team 65 yards in 8 plays for the game-tying touchdown to Austin Collie. It was Manning, defined.
Unfortunately, the last minute heroics by Manning were for naught as the Colts defense surrendered a key 22-yard pass play from David Garrard to Tiquan Underwood on the next series. Underwood was able to get out-of-bounds on the play as well, providing Jags kicker Josh Scobee with just enough time to nail a 59-yard FG at the gun to win the game for the Jaguars.
Offensively, the Colts were 4-5 in the redzone, 70% on third down, and 100% in goal-to-goal efficiency (3-3). Unfortunately, because the Colts defense was so bile-inducing yesterday, being anything less than perfect wasn't enough.
This week, we're going to hear lots of different reasons why the Colts lost. The turnovers will come up. You'll hear people talk about getting better at 'the little things.' Chatter about 'tackling better,' 'trusting our teammates,' and 'staying in their gaps.' The problem is we've all heard this nonsense before, and my question is if people are still not hitting their gaps, trusting teammates, or even tackling well WTF are they doing playing on this defense?
For the second game in a row against a division opponent, the Colts defense looked flat, lazy, undisciplined, unfocused, and (amazingly) not ready to play professional football. Garrard's 25-yard TD run in the first quarterback was a microcosm of the entire game. Deshea Townsend is still looking for his shoes after Garrard faked him one way, and cut left on the way to the endzone.
After four weeks, this team is a shaky 2-2. It is obviously not panic time, but there are problems all over this team in areas that should not be problems areas. Issues with things like the offensive line are expected. That area has a chump corps of players who are, to put it bluntly, not very good. We know that. But issues on defense, particularly in the secondary, are unacceptable.The old excuse of the Colts 'not investing enough in their defense' is long gone. Indy has spent a ton of bread on defensive players in recent years:
Kelvin Hayden has a $43 million dollar contract.
Antoine Bethea has a $27 million dollar contract.
Gary Brackett has a $33 million dollar contract.
Dwight Freeney has a $72 million dollar contract.
Bob Sanders has a (groan) $37.5 million dollar contract.
All that money, and we are still seeing the same problems this team had FOUR YEARS AGO! New defensive coordinator. New head coach. New aggressive system. Same issues. That's far too much money invested in a team currently surrendering 150 rushing yards a game and over 25 points per game.
For me, and hopefully anyone else, this loss hangs solely on the defense. After four weeks, this group has been very shaky in all areas. Some changes need to start taking happening, and quick.
Regardless of the loss, and the anger that any loss brings out in us, I'd like to thank this community for being rather level-headed about things. Not everyone agrees on how or why the Colts blew this divisional game that they should have won, but the overall tone between members was very positive. Also, thanks to the Jaguars fans who commented, and to Big Cat Country for a great week of cross-blogging leading up to the game.