Peyton Manning threw for 352 yards and two TDs, and Reggie Wayne caught a career-high 15 passes for 196 yards, but the Colts' defense failed to do its part in a 31-28 loss to the Jaguars. Just one week after bending but not breaking against the Broncos — the Colts allowed more than 500 yards of offense but limited Denver to six points on five trips inside the red zone — Indianapolis allowed the Jaguars to score three touchdowns on three trips inside the Colts' 20-yard line.
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The Colts' defense knew that it would have to stop Maurice Jones-Drew to be successful and it simply was unable to rise to the occasion, particularly in the first half. After Manning and Co. drove the ball 59 yards downfield on the first series, resulting in a two-yard Joseph Addai score, the Jaguars answered, marching 76 yards on nine plays, capped off by a 25-yard scamper by David Garrard on a QB option. The Jaguars fed MJD on the first five plays, gaining 26 yards. It was obvious from that point on that the Jaguars were the more physical team.
After being gashed by Arian Foster in Week One, the Colts talked about playing more disciplined on defense and doing a better job with gap control. The problem Sunday wasn't being in the wrong place at the wrong time; the problem was that the defense was being pushed all over the field by the Jags' bigger, more determined offensive line.
MJD got most of his yardage after the first would-be tackler failed to bring him down. The back end was particularly troubling, with CB Kelvin Hayden missing multiple tackles — as did Antoine Bethea, the team's usually dependable Pro Bowl free safety.
The front seven didn't fare much better, with the exception of WLB Clint Session, who brought his usual physical play to the field after missing the past two weeks with a hamstring injury, and young DT Fili Moala, who seems to be improving each week.
DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis usually feast on the Jaguars, but they were virtually invisible. The Jaguars' young tackles, Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, played well just one week after being eaten alive by Trent Cole and the Eagles.
The game plan on defense for the Colts was to load the box and make Garrard beat them with his arm. It seems they may have forgotten that Garrard is most dangerous with his legs. He carried the ball five times for 44 yards, and like MJD, delivered a blow to Colts defenders on more than one occasion.
And for all the troubles on defense, the game was still there for the taking after Manning drove the offense 65 yards for a game-tying score in the final minutes. But the Colts' zone coverage on second-year WR Tiquan Underwood, paired with Hayden not capitalizing on Garrard's one mistake — an ill-advised pass that bounced off Hayden's chest and should have been intercepted — allowed the Jaguars to set up PK Josh Scobee for a game-winning, 59-yard field goal.
The Colts will have to get the run defense regrouped in a hurry with the surprisingly undefeated Chiefs visiting next Sunday. Kansas City boasts the league's No. 1 ranked rushing attack, led by game-breaker Jamaal Charles and rugged veteran Thomas Jones. The Chiefs will see plenty of film from this game, as well as the Week One rushing onslaught from the Texans.
If the Colts are to rebound from their first-ever 0-2 start in the AFC South, they need to not only be known as one of the league's fastest defenses, but also one that will not be pushed around the way they were by the Jaguars.