We all remember this game.
The phase "ugh" doesn't truly give the game justice when thinking bout it. It's more like, "Ugh, my balls!" or "Pain. In. Scrotum." It's a game that should burn hard in the minds of just about every Colts fans. It was late in the season last year when that game seemed to signal the ultimate fate of the Colts. Despite having DT Anthony "Booger" McFarland, the Colts run defense was putrid. Jacksonville rubbed Indy's noses in it. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew ran for almost 400 rushing yards that day.
It seemed that the Colts were doomed to playoff failure once again, if they even made the playoffs. There was a lot of rotten feelings around here after that loss, and I don't think anyone truly believed this team was ready to take the next step. Two months later, Jacksonville was home for the playoffs (again) after choking away their last three games while Indianapolis, with a rejuvenated defense that stoned opposing rushing attacks, was hoisting the Lombardi trophy in Miami.
As I always say: Anything can, and likely will, happen.
This year, it's pretty safe to say both teams are improved. Cato June and Gilbert Gardner, the two men most responsible for that 400 yard gift to the Jags, are gone in Indy. For Jacksonville, to me they seemed the most vulnerable at the beginning of the season. I thought both Tennessee and Houston were improved, but I didn't much improvement from Jacksonville.
Boy, was I wrong.
The Jags finally dumped Fatty McButterpants, aka QB Byron Leftwich, much to the chagrin of us Colts fans. We liked Byron. We liked his lazy attitude, his stupid decisions, his taunting of the Colts crowd, his failed attempts to throw the football from his knees. Ah Byron. We'll miss you. Now, Jacksonville has a guy who can actually play the position. As MasterRWayne posted earlier, the Jags drafting Leftwich was one in a long string of dumb first round draft moves from 2003 onward. David Garrard was a always a better QB, and it was always painfully obvious. Now, Garrard is the full time starter, and he's altered his throwing motion to get the ball out of his hands with greater velocity. The result: No INTs. That's right. Seven weeks of football and nary a pick. That's impressive.
Add to this a very potent Jags running game and a defense that has found itself after getting smacked around in Week One against the Titans and you got a damn fine football team. The one constant with Jacksonville is Jack Del Rio. The man, quite simply, is a stupid coach. The one thing he is good at doing is designing gameplans against the Colts that feature Fred Taylor. I don't know what it is, but Fred Taylor just goes off on the Colts. Maybe Peyton slept with his wife or something. Fred's an over-rated, injury-prone wuss most of the time, nearly eclipsed by the very talented Jones-Drew. But against the Colts, he's Jesus on crack.
This is why I say that this game, and not a game against New England or San Diego, is the most important. Jacksonville is a helluva team. They've won 4 in a row and look like they've turned a corner. This game Monday Night is a tough test that will tell us something about this group of Colts.