NFL Week Fifteen Recap: Colts 34, Jaguars 24

Just two stats tell you all you need to know about this game.

155 rushing yards gained.

67 rushing yards allowed.

Prior to yesterday's 34-24 victory by the Indianapolis Colts over the Jacksonville Jaguars, pretty much all of us would have said the stat lines above were for the Jaguars offense and defense, respectively. But as annoying and obnoxious as he has become, ESPN's Chris Berman's schitky line, 'THAT'S why they play the games!' could not be more true this morning.

While David's article yesterday covered many of the key elements of the win, for me it was the most complete game this season for the Colts. This was the team that we all expected to see in 2010. It finally showed up. For me, this game was better than the Week Two blowout against the New York Giants. In that game, the Colts simply took advantage of an awful Giants game plan.

In this game, the Colts physically dominated the Jaguars, a team built to 'out-physical' the Colts.

Like many of you, I was thinking, Where was this two weeks ago? Three weeks ago! Back when the Chargers and Cowboys were imposing their wills on the Colts in devastating fashion at Lucas Oil Stadium. While injuries, poor management decisions, and some questionable coaching have all played significant roles in the Colts entering December fighting for their playoff lives, today the 'question players,' the under-achievers who have failed to live up to their stock all season, finally showed up and made a big difference.

After the jump, my general observations...

  • The obvious 'breakout' performance was Donald Brown's. There is no way anyone can sugarcoat how pitiful Brown has played since being drafted in the first round in 2009. Sixth round slow pokes like Mike Hart and undrafted nobodys like Javarris James had all clearly outplayed Brown this year. Yet, in a game that was as close as a regular season game can get to being a 'playoff game,' Brown delivered. Part of the reason Brown was able to have success was the Colts went back to the stretch running play, which Brown was drafted specifically to do. On his 43-yard TD run, it was classic stretch left. Brown cut, shot through the gap, and outran the entire Jags defense for six. Brown's other 40-plus yard run was off a delayed draw. Brown is excellent running from delays and stretch. He's useless run straight ahead. I hope you are taking notes, Clyde Christensen.
  • The other 'breakout' performance was by the defense. The Colts held the Jags to 5-13 on third down.
  • The punt return for a touchdown by Mike Thomas was an official's error. Thomas signaled 'fair catch.' Colts players saw it and let up. Thomas caught the ball and ran. No flag. Colt coach Jim Caldwell was pretty pissed, as well he should be. It was 7 cheap points for the Jags. In the end, it didn't matter. Still, a normally strong officiating crew (Mike Carey's) was noticeably off yesterday.
  • Carey's crew made up for the blown fair catch call on the Thomas fumble later in the game. Taj Smith was clearly pushed into Thomas, causing him to fumble the catch, which Colts linebacker Kavell Conner recovered. If Carey and his crew had blown that call as well, and the Colts had lost, those men would not have gotten out of The Luke unless with an armed escort.
  • Normally, I hate it went the Colts stunt on defense. Stunting just limits the up-field rushing ability of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. However, when David Gerrard threw an interception to Antoine Bethea in the third quarter, the reason he threw that pick was because Dwight Freeney was in his face. Freeney was able to get up-the-middle pressure on that play off a stunt.
  • Fili Moala played his best game as a pro. Yes, he only had one tackle, but stats don't tell the story. He was giving the Jaguars o-line fits all game long.
  • Jacob Lacey has either regressed or been exposed as a mediocre-to-bad corner. The early pass inference call, the mistakes, it all adds up to a guy who isn't quite the same as he was last year.
  • I wrote this in my quick recap, but on the play where Austin Collie received his third concussion this season, the person at fault on the play was Peyton Manning. I'm positive he didn't intend this, but Peyton led Collie into the safety's hit, which was legal and clean. After the play, Peyton was pissed, likely at himself. The play was a 3rd-and-12, and Peyton was trying to fit the ball in between three defenders. Bad throw. If he throw it away, the Colts punt and Collie is OK. Instead, the Colts punt, and Collie might be done for 2010.
  • To the folks 'defending' Manning on that play, please stop making excuses. If you disagree, that's always fine, but don't get pissy that someone like me for faulting Peyton. I love Peyton Manning. He's the best. But, that was a horrible throw, and if you read his face and body language after the play, he knew it was a dumb play on his part.
  • Peyton now has thrown 17 TDs and only 3 INTs when Austin Collie plays. Collie had two TDs on the day, abusing the Jags wretched secondary.
  • So fun to see Dominic Rhodes running the ball against for Indy.
  • Since Pat McAfee's suspension, his punts have been 'meh' and I can't recall a single touchback on a kickoff. Something is off with him.
  • I feel better about the pass defense sans Jerraud Powers now after watching Justin Tryon the last two weeks. Right now, Tryon is Indy's best corner. If Kelvin Hayden were healthy, Tryon would still be Indy's est corner.
  • Did Philip Wheeler play? He recorded no tackles, and both Pat Angerer and Tyjuan Hagler seemed all over the field. Wheeler wasn't mentioned on the injury report, nor was he scratched from the active roster on gameday.
  • In the biggest game of the year (thus far), Colts first round pick Jerry Hughes was a healthy scratch. Tells you something about how the team views him. 
  • Cannot say enough good things about Jacob Tamme. One of the reasons you all have seen writers like me get so negative on players like Donald Brown, Fili Moala, and Jerry Hughes this season is because of guys like Tamme. On both of Brown's long runs today, Tamme made key blocks. Tamme was drafted to, essentially, play special teams. But, with Dallas Clark gone for the year, Tamme has had to step in and make plays from the tight end spot. Tamme caught 7 for 34 yards today, upping his season total to 53 receptions for 486 yards and 3 TDs.

The Jaguars deserve credit for fighting back into the game,but the Colts set the tone early on Brown's 49-yard run in the first quarter. Indy had a 14-3 lead, and only Thomas' cheap fake fair catch got the Jags back in the game. Indy responded by going up 21-10.

Other than Donald Brown's two big running plays, the biggest play of the game was the decision by Jack Del Rio to go for it on fourth down on his own 39-yard line down by 3 points. Penetration into the backfield by Robert Mathis and Fili Moala forced the hand-off between Gararrd and Maurice Jones-Drew to be awkward. Jones-Drew fumbled, and the Colts recovered. They turned that mistake into 3 more points, digging an even deeper whole for the Jags.

We will have plenty of things to say about Coach Del Rio later today. Until then, I'd like to give a special nod to Big Cat Country, who did some excellent writing leading up to the game.

The Colts are 8-6, and are sitting on top of the AFC South. They aren't playoff bound yet, but they are finally in the picture.

Go Colts.

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