The Jaguars beat the Colts in dramatic fashion on Sunday behind a 59-yard game-winning field goal by Josh Scobee as time expired. RB Maurice Jones-Drew racked up 121 yards from scrimmage and a pair of TDs, David Garrard played mistake-free football, with two passing touchdowns and a rushing TD, and the Jaguars overcame a 352-yard passing day and late TD drive with a little more than a minute remaining by Peyton Manning to earn a much-needed 31-28 win.
The PFW spin
This was a win that Garrard and Jack Del Rio needed desperately. Both QB and head coach have been on the receiving end of plenty of criticism and speculation regarding their future in Jacksonville the past two weeks, and this performance buys them at least a bit of breathing room.
Unlike the stinkers against the Chargers and Eagles the previous two weeks, Garrard was confident and on point virtually the entire day — ironically, his worst series was on the game-winning drive when he threw a couple bad balls, including an ill-advised throw to WR Tiquan Underwood that should have been a pick-six for Colts CB Kelvin Hayden, who dropped the gift.
Otherwise, the embattled QB was calm, cool and collected. He completed 17-of-22 passes for 163 yards and a pair of TDs. He added another score with his legs on a QB option that was executed to perfection. Garrard took what the defense gave him, and found a new weapon along the way in second-year speedster Underwood, whose three receptions all came with the game on the line. Expect to see Underwood get more involved as the season progresses after his clutch performance.
It's impossible to know what to expect from Garrard, though; he has now posted two passer ratings over 125 and two under 63 to start the season, resulting in the team's 2-2 mark. There is no question, however, that he is at his best when the running game is working, which it was in a major way on Sunday.
The Jags' most talented player, Jones-Drew, carried 26 times for 105 hard-fought yards. It was the best he has looked all season, with a lot of the yards coming after contact. It's no secret that the best way to beat Manning and the Colts' suspect run defense is by keeping Manning off the field and punching the "D" in the mouth, and the Jaguars' game plan was designed accordingly. On the day, they finished with 174 yards on 35 carries (5.0 avg.).
The offensive line, led by young OTs Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, was outstanding. Garrard was not sacked, and was only put on his back once. Colts Pro Bowl DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were taken out of the game. The Jags brought in a sixth offensive lineman, Jordan Black, to help the power running game and protect Garrard, and the strategy worked well.
The Jaguars' defense allowed a ton of yards, but that doesn't tell the whole story. FS Gerald Alexander, who was brought in during the week after Sean Considine was injured against the Eagles, had a critical fumble recovery and SS Anthony Smith, who missed the past two weeks with a foot injury, caused Manning's lone interception, jarring the ball loose from rookie TE Brody Eldridge in the red zone on the first possession of the third quarter. The secondary has taken a lot of heat, and deservingly so, to start the season, but the safety pairing of Alexander and Smith, which was together for the first time on Sunday, appears to give the Jaguars the best chance to win.
It's only fitting that the play of the Jaguars' special teams, which has been the most consistent part of this football team through the first quarter of the season, grabs the spotlight in such a huge win. Scobee's kick would have been good from 63 yards out. He got every bit of that football and struck it perfectly. After a rough 2009 season, Scobee deservedly celebrated his game-winning kick.
None of this will matter, of course, if the Jaguars don't keep the momentum going in Buffalo next week. The cries for Del Rio's and Garrard's heads will return, as will talk of the team's demise and future in Jacksonville. But for at least a week, the club can take pleasure in the fact that it beat up on the AFC champs by playing Jaguars football — pound it on the ground, protect the rock, and force the opponent into making mistakes. And the Jags will have a chance to win a lot more games this season if they can continue with that formula.