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Knee-jerk Reactions: Colts’ defense does its part despite falling to Jaguars 31-21

How did the Colts look in their 2023 regular-season debut against the Jaguars?

Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts opened their 2023 season against the defending AFC South champion Jacksonville Jaguars. Overall, if you’re the Colts, there was a lot to like with what you saw in stretches throughout the game. Granted, there’s certainly a lot that Indianapolis has to clean up, too. Ultimately, the Colts fell short of upsetting the Jaguars 31-21 and have now gone a full decade without winning a season-opener.


Defensively, the Colts kept up with the high-flying Jacksonville offense for much of the game. Jacksonville converted just 3-of-12 third-down attempts and were 1-of-3 on fourth-downs as well. Indy’s defense also held the Jaguars to just five yards per play while also recording two sacks.

Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and linebacker Zaire Franklin both had quite the individual performances. Buckner recorded seven combined tackles and a sack-fumble, which resulted in a touchdown after a heads-up play from Franklin to knock the ball out of rookie running back Tank Bigsby’s hands. Franklin recorded 18 total tackles (10 solo) and a pass deflection. Defensive end Kwity Paye also recorded a sack and two tackles for loss.

Let’s also be sure to give credit to Indianapolis’ secondary, which did a fairly nice job against an elite quarterback and group of pass-catchers. Jaguars’ quarterback Trevor Lawrence was held to only 241 passing yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley had eight receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown, but Jacksonville’s other receiving options, such as wide receivers Zay Jones and Christian Kirk, were held under the 100-yard mark.

The numbers in the box score may tell one story, but Indianapolis’ defense came to play against a very talented Jaguars team, and they deserve a ton of credit for their performance on Sunday.


On the flipside, it was an up-and-down type of day for the Colts’ offense. Rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson shined in his regular-season debut, completing 24-of-37 passes (64 percent) for 233 yards with a passing touchdown, rushing touchdown and an interception. Richardson also looked good on the ground with ten rushes for 40 yards. There’s certainly room for improvement, but there’s a lot for the Colts to build off of from the rookies debut.

Speaking of the Colts’ ground game — that was a major issue Sunday. Without running backs Jonathan Taylor (PUP) and Zack Moss (forearm), the Colts turned their attention to Deon Jackson, Jake Funk and rookie Evan Hull. Jackson finished the afternoon with just 14 rushing yards on 13 attempts (yes, that’s a real stat line), while also fumbling it twice. If not for Richardson’s 40 rushing yards, Indianapolis would’ve finished the day with 25 total rushing yards between Jackson, Funk and Hull. Translation: The Colts have to get much better play out of their starting group, even when Moss is back in the starting lineup.

In terms of efficiency, you would’ve liked to see the Colts capitalize on a few different scoring opportunities after having a short field during some of their drives Sunday. Failing on a 4th-and-1 inside and fumbling inside Jacksonville territory simply cannot happen for Indianapolis if you want to come away with your first victory in a season-opener in ten years. Converting 2-of-12 third-down attempts isn’t going to cut it, either. Perhaps we’re having a different conversation if the Colts are able to capitalize on mistakes from the Jaguars and find more success on third downs.

Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. hauled in eight receptions for 97 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown. Tight end Kylen Granson had four receptions for 39 yards and rookie Josh Downs had three receptions for 30 yards. Indianapolis’ offense did struggle throughout the second half after Pittman’s long touchdown off a screen pass. Having a non-existent running game certainly doesn’t help in finding overall success on offense, but it’s also fair to say that the Colts need to get more out of their pass-catchers going forward, too.