Both the Colts and Jaguars entered this week’s divisional matchup coming off very different games. Indianapolis celebrated the first win of the Andrew Luck era over Minnesota with a last-second kick from Adam Vinatieri, while Jacksonville experienced one of the franchise’s most pathetic showings in a 27-7 beat-down at the hands of the Houston Texans. On a day on which Colts great Edgerrin James was honored, not much build-up surrounded this game. However, despite a snoozer of a first half, what followed was one of the most exciting finishes of this still very young season.
The game started off very much like Indy’s last game, with Jacksonville moving the ball effectively, but faltering late in their drives, resulting in only 3 first-half points. The Colts’ offense was likewise similar to last week, moving the ball with an efficient passing attack led by Andrew Luck and a 40-yard strike to rookie T.Y Hilton for Hilton’s first career touchdown on their opening drive. Luck, overall, had another decent showing, going 22/46 for 313 yards, 2 first-half TD’s and one awful underthrown ball that resulted in an INT. The Colts defense had another strong first half, containing Maurice Jones-Drew—who is notorious for burning the Colts—to just over 60 yards in the first half, and harassing Blaine Gabbert on most drop-backs. When Luck led a nice drive for a four-yard touchdown pass to Mewelde Moore, taking a 14-3 lead into the half, all seemed right with Colts fans.
Unfortunately for Colts fans, there exists a rule in football that there are indeed two halves in a game, and it was in the second when this game really heated up. After a quick Colts three-and-out to start, MJD could be contained no more, busting out a 59-yard touchdown run on the Jaguars’ opening play, narrowing the lead to four. This pattern continued into the third quarter as the Jaguars gashed the Colts with their run game, which ended with 177 yards on 28 carries for Jones-Drew. In return, the Colts’ stagnant run game continued to be, well, stagnant. Leading rusher Donald Brown failed again to break 70 yards, collecting only 62 on 18 carries. This ineptitude continues in part because of the patchwork offensive line of the Colts, who forced Andrew Luck to run for his life at times. Luck, in case you were wondering, was not sacked, but was forced into scrambling for 50 yards. This lack of a running attack would not have mattered had the passing game not also fallen off with dropped passes, good defense from Jacksonville, and some poor throws, including the aforementioned gift thrown to Jags linebacker Paul Posluszny midway through the third quarter. Before you knew it, the Jaguars had snuck back into the game and snatched the lead following two Josh Scobee field goals. The lead: 16-14 with 2:49 left in the third.
Suddenly, with 10:55 remaining in the final quarter, the Colts started driving. Suddenly, the Colts started hitting some good runs with Brown. Suddenly, Luck had some time to find open receivers. That drive, starting at the Indianapolis 8-yard line, spanned over six minutes and ended up with the Colts at the Jacksonville 17-yard-line facing a fourth-and-one with 4:45 to play. Out came “Mr. Clutch” Adam Vinatieri—one of the best kickers in NFL history, with 24 game-winning kicks under his belt—and he has a chip-shot—a 31-yard field goal—to take the lead. Suddenly, the offense did not care. An inexcusable delay of game penalty cost the Colts 5 yards. No matter, this is Adam Vinatieri after all, what is five more yards? The snap is good, the kick is up, and he missed it. Adam Vinatieri missed a 36-yard chip shot, and you could feel the air leave Lucas Oil Stadium.
All was not lost, however. A quick three-and-out gave the Colts the ball with three minutes left on their own 15-yard line. After a big 32-yard gain to Hilton, the drive stalled and a holding penalty put the Colts in a third-and-20. Luck, with time, went deep to an open Donnie Avery who was blatantly interfered with, as safety Dwight Lowery pushed Avery in the head prior to the ball arriving. But, the replacement “officials” missed the call and the Colts punted. 16-14, still, 2:01 left on the board, Jaguars’ ball on their own 20-yard-line, and everyone in the building knows who is getting the ball. There is still hope. Despite a miserable half against the rush, lo and behold, the defense held MJD on three rushes up the middle. Jaguars punt. There is still hope.
A minute and a half to go, no timeouts, and the ball is in the hands of the number one overall pick at his own 33. Everybody is thinking, “The Colts have to be smart. Get out of bounds; do not waste time.” All that went out the window, as a dump pass to Donald Brown took off for 39 yards to the Jacksonville 28-yard-line, taking only 10 seconds off the clock. The stadium was rocking. There is still hope. After three running plays to expend the Jaguars’ timeouts, a minute and a second remained. Out comes “Mr. Clutch” again. The goat of the game could become the hero for the second week in a row. The distance was identical to the last kick. There is no way he could miss it again, right? Right. The kick is up and good, Colts lead 17-16 with 56 seconds; the goat is now a god.
No timeouts for Jacksonville at their own 20-yard-line. Gabbert has had a lousy game—only 75 yards in the game. The time is right; the time is now. Well, maybe not. On the first play of the drive, Gabbert hit second-year wideout Cecil Shorts for an 80-yard TD. Wait, what? But what about Vinatieri’s redemption and all that? Maybe another week. After a failed two-point conversion the lead was 22-17 with 45 ticks left. All is lost. Well, maybe not. After a good return and pass play to Hilton—who finished with 4 grabs for 113 yards—the Colts have a third-and-ten at the Jaguars’ 26-yard-line. Seven ticks. There is hope. It all comes down to this. Luck could do nothing more than toss it up to Reggie Wayne. The pass is broken up. Jaguars win 22-17.
Although the loss is disappointing, there is some good to take away. As shown before, Luck is more than able to make a late push when he has to. He needs some more help around him however. The Colts have got to get the run game figured out. A rookie quarterback should not have to throw 45 times a game; he needs a break—a break this run game and offensive line are not giving him. On the defensive side, it was a tale of two halves. If the Colts can play consistently in the late game like they do in the beginning, this defense has potential. If not, this team is destined for many more late-game collapses and heartbreak. Following next week’s bye, the team should have Dwight Freeney back, which should help tremendously. That game will come at home against the Green Bay Packers.