After further review, it's pretty much just ugly.
Here are my thoughts after a second look at the game.
The Real Story
Two of the worst teams in football squared off in a game that exposed the massive, obvious flaws in both.
Jacksonville may well have saved their season, but the advantage is only temporary.
The Jaguars struggled to move the ball the entire game, but were aided by a huge run by Maurice Jones-Drew and then a lightning bolt from quarterback Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts, saving what would have been a disastrous third-straight loss to open the season from Jacksonville.
The Colts, meanwhile, showed they are riddled with holes at all levels of the roster. Against a Jaguars front that had been shredded on the ground, they could barely muster any forward progress.
The Indy defense was trampled by Jones-Drew, and the secondary came unglued at the worst possible moment.
It was a bad game between bad teams that are going nowhere in 2012.
Cornerback Derek Cox had a tremendous game for Jacksonville and deserves major credit for silencing Colts wide receiver Donnie Avery. Avery torched the Minnesota Vikings for more than 100 yards in Week 2, but he had just two catches for 28 yards against Cox, both on difficult sideline grabs.
Obviously, Maurice Jones-Drew is the biggest hero of the day for Jacksonville. His tireless effort kept the Jaguars in a game they had no business staying in.
Cecil Shorts had just one catch on the day, but what a catch it was.
For Indianapolis, QB Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton were the standard bearers. Luck wasn't perfect, but on a day when little went right for the Colts run game, Luck kept drives alive with his legs and arm.
Hilton's break-out 113-yard performance was impressive, but it might have been a little sweeter had he gone out of bounds in the final seconds after catching a long ball from Luck. The rookie mistake likely cost the Colts 15 seconds and a chance to set up an easier final throw.
Gabbert was a train wreck. The final touchdown pass will be long-remembered, but it cannot obscure how terrible he was. Indianapolis has one of the worst secondaries in football, and Gabbert was pathologically incapable of wounding it.
Gabbert's numbers in terms of YPA, completion percentage and sack rate are all nearly as bad as they were in 2011. His rating is strong right now because he has yet to throw an interception.
Not throwing picks is not the same as playing well. The Jaguars simply cannot win consistently with play like he gave at quarterback.
The Indianapolis run defense obviously deserves jeers, as does the combination of Sergio Brown and Antoine Bethea for allowing Shorts to burn 80 yards down the middle of the field. Brown was completely lost on the play.
For Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey, the decision to run the ball with 1:50 left was awful. Yes, Gabbert had been a mess all day, but if the Jaguars could have converted that first down, the game would have been over. Instead of trying to win the game, Mularkey called a give-up play, trusting his defense.
His defense didn't merit the trust.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was a disaster in the fourth quarter. First, he chose to kick a field goal on 4th-and-1 with 4:45 left. This was probably the wrong choice, but it was defensible given the state of the Indy line.
What isn't defensible was Pagano failing to get the kick team in on time. The Colts took a five-yard delay of game penalty on the play, and Adam Vinatieri missed the kick. Pagano said after the game:
Here’s what happens is you’re waiting for them to mark the ball. We knew it was short but we’re just trying to decide what are we going to do? I knew we were going to kick a field goal. We were just waiting for them to put the ball down.
Then they’ve got to change the ball out. So by the time we throw the field-goal unit out there, they’ve got to bring out the “K ball,” so they bring the “K ball” in there and consequently they run out of time and we get the delay. So, that’s on me. I’ve got to get the kick team out there and get them set and ready to go.
Pagano then went ultra-conservative on the penultimate Colts drive. With the ball at the Jacksonville 28, Indianapolis ran the ball three-straight plays to set up the go-ahead field goal.
The problem is that they left almost a full minute for the Jaguars to come back.
Pagano trusted his defense. His defense didn't merit the trust.
Also of note was a terrible spike by Andrew Luck at the end of the first half. On 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line with :43 seconds left, Indianapolis wasted a down stopping the clock.
They scored on the next play, but this is something the Colts have practiced, and it's a sign of horrible strategic understanding on the part of the coaches. Wasting a down and leaving too much time on the clock are both mistakes that will haunt them before too long.
Keep an Eye On
Jacksonville has consecutive home games against playoff-caliber teams. All four of the Jaguars' next opponents have two wins.
While beating Indy was nice, if the Jags don't get better in a hurry, they'll be 1-6 and just as dead in the water as if they were 0-3. It's clear the offense isn't working as Gabbert plays it now.
On the Indianapolis side, they have a bye and two weeks to batten down the hatches before Green Bay comes to town.
If Pagano doesn't come up with a bang-up game plan, Indy could lose at home by 30 points.
Before the season, I had both of these teams finishing at about five wins. After watching them in person, I would adjust that guess downward.
All quotes provided by the Indianapolis Colts.
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