The Colts went into their week ten game against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars knowing it was a must-win affair if they had aspirations to end this season with a playoff berth. The offense certainly looked unstoppable in the first half, managing to hang 29 points on the vaunted Jaguars defense before halftime.
It wasn’t all perfect though. The second half saw the offense go stagnant, and the defense struggled to get stops against an offense that hasn’t been able to get anything going all season. At the end of the day though, it was a win. The Colts deal a crushing blow to a divisional rival and move forward. There were plenty of winners and losers to go around in this game, so let’s take a look at them.
Entering today’s game, the Jacksonville Jaguars had the best passing defense in the NFL. That didn’t phase Andrew Luck a bit. He went 21/29 for 285 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception. That interception was an anomaly as well as it was a result of a ball hitting Mo-Alie Cox in the chest and bouncing up for Telvin Smith to snag with ease.
Luck’s pocket movement was excellent as ever, his decision making was crisp, and he made a very good pass defense look pedestrian. He hit 8 different receivers throughout the course of the game and when used, looked unstoppable.
So about Eric Ebron… All he has done since putting on a Colts uniform is score 10 total touchdowns and 463 receiving yards. He has already doubled his career high in terms of total touchdowns, and looks on pace to set a new career high in yards.
Today Ebron was excellent, looking like a piece the Jaguars had no answer for early, snagging two passing and running an end around for an easy 3rd score. Ebron represents a major and valuable acquisition by Chris Ballard, and he’ll be around for awhile, because he’s just 25 years old.
Last year when the Colts played the Jaguars for the first time, the Jaguars’ talented defensive line completely overran their offensive line to the tune of 10 sacks. In one game. Today? Nada. For those keeping track, Andrew Luck hasn’t been sacked since the first half of the Patriots’ game back in week 5.
It starts with the nastiness of guys like Quenton Nelson, who is a factor in both the passing and rushing game.
... Quenton Nelson ... That man has a family dude... pic.twitter.com/QLvh23qJGJ— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) November 11, 2018
But it doesn’t stop there. It is Braden Smith at right tackle and Glowinski at right guard as well. Ryan Kelly and Anthony Castonzo continue to be great as well, and the group is only getting better as they get more comfortable together. With this unit keeping Andrew clean and able to go through his progressions, it almost isn’t fair for defenses.
Kenny Moore wasn’t perfect. However, he had a couple critical pass breakups to end a drive in the first half, a tackle for a loss, and most importantly he finished out the game for the Colts by forcing a fumble that was recovered by Malik Hooker and let the Colts kneel the game away.
The Colts haven’t had a lot to be excited about in terms of cornerback play, but Kenny Moore played a tough game and got it done when they absolutely needed it. He did have a couple plays where he overran the offensive player, once on a blitz and also in the open field where his missed tackle ended up being a much longer run. Those hurt and need to be improved, but it cannot be discounted that his turnover at the end of the game helped save it when the team needed it the most.
Autry didn’t have the biggest and most obvious impact in the game, but his blocked field goal was an impact play which took a point off the board. If it hadn’t been for a stupid block on the back end of that play, it would have resulted in a 3-point swing in favor of the Colts. The Colts need Autry to get back to making impact plays, and could use more of them on the defense in addition to his special teams contributions.
We discussed in the Stampede Blue staff chat that Wilson is essentially playing himself off this roster. His game today was ugly and he was directly responsible for points on the board for the Jaguars on at least one occasion and possibly more.
After being a guy who showed flashes of strong ability, Wilson has come crashing down to earth and simply cannot be what the Colts need him to be. He got some snaps at nickel backer in today’s game, but didn’t show himself to be a major asset on snaps where he played there either. I would be relatively surprised if he is a Colt next season.
Reich’s play calling in the first half was masterful. He had a very good defense reeling and his offense was moving down the field with ease. The second half was a pretty big problem however. The play calling suddenly got very conservative, and the passing game which had been so effective in the first half dried up as they stubbornly stuck with more predictable runs.
While it is important to be able to run the ball to use up the clock, it is more important to continue to get first downs. Reich’s offense didn’t put up a single point in the whole of the second half. That isn’t acceptable. This team does not have the defense to sustain that kind of offensive collapse. Reich has to do better. The good news is that he isn’t a guy who seems likely to continue making the same kinds of mistakes. I expect him to learn from this and move on.
The Colts are really struggling to get pressure like they did early in the season against quarterbacks. It seems like a lot of the stunts that were effective early on either are on film now and are being accounted for, or the players are more worn down and not as effective. Whatever the reason, the Colts have not been able to get to opposing quarterbacks. That’s a problem, and not one the team can overcome without their rookies, Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis stepping up.
Turay was out today and so getting him back may help, and Lewis definitely had some flashes as a guy who could get going as he gets familiar with the game now that he is back from IR. Margus Hunt has been silent lately after a great start to the season, and Denico Autry had an impact on special teams today but has struggled with injuries.
If the Colts are going to make a run of it, they’ll have to find a way to get more consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback, otherwise their cornerbacks are going to be diced up all season.