INDIANAPOLIS – After the Jaguars beat the Colts 19-13 to conclude a 2-14 2011 season, it was a time for change for Indianapolis.
The Colts ushered in a new era that has seen only 10 current active players and two assistant coaches remain from that season, and the franchise has earned 11-5 and 10-5 records along the way.
Sunday’s opponent, Jacksonville, visits with 31 players acquired this year, plus a coaching staff headed by Gus Bradley, who is ending his first season. New coordinators Bob Babich and Jedd Fisch are among 15 additions to the staff.
Indianapolis beat Jacksonville 37-3 on September 29 and after a rocky start, the Jaguars have won four of their last seven games. Until two recent setbacks, their 4-1 run had the Jaguars among the league’s hottest teams.
It was been a year of progress in Jacksonville under Bradley and new general manager David Caldwell.
“Our whole emphasis, and I know it’s cliché-ish, but it’s really we’re looking for our team to get better,” said Bradley. “Our goal is to be at our best each week. Our team is striving to constantly have improvement.
“We show them examples of how we’re improving. They sense that and they feel it. Here’s another opportunity to get better. I think they’ve really embraced that type of mentality.”
“I think that we were getting better. It might not have showed it in the score,” said Bradley. “I think for us it was more of a mentality. We’re going to take from the wins, we’re going to take from the losses and we’re going to use it for growth to continue to get better.
“It allowed our attitude to be positive and allowed for growth to take place. We trust the results will come. There was a period where we had some victories. I think it helped validate it through that. It was from the first day to implement our culture. It’s been awesome.”
Three of the four wins have come in the division, with Jacksonville sweeping Houston. Chad Henne has started 12-of-14 games, but not Week Four against the Colts.
Long-time center Brad Meester will be concluding a stellar career, and Maurice Jones-Drew visits the Colts for a 15th time.
Jones-Drew’s 1,412 yards and 10 rushing scores are among the best ever totaled by an opposing back. His eight 100-plus outings rank second by an opposing rusher, but Indianapolis limited him to 23 yards on 13 carries in September.
What the future holds for the rusher remains to be seen, but his motivation on game days is firm.
“We get paid to do a job, so you want to do your best at it. You always want to try to finish the season strong,” said Jones-Drew. “We’re trying to keep this deal going. You want to continue to have fun, continue to get better and you got to show that each week.”
Bradley will see a second-year coach in Chuck Pagano who has established everything he is seeking to do, and appears on the way, in Jacksonville.
He will see an Indianapolis team trying to close the season with a third straight win to get back to 11 triumphs as it gears for a second straight playoff berth.
“I really marvel at their execution,” said Bradley. “We talk here about we want a culture of execution. I put on their tape and that’s exactly what they’re doing.
“They’re playing really hard, really fast and because of that you’re seeing them get a lot of takeaways on defense, and they’re doing a good job holding on to the ball offensively. You just don’t see many mistakes. They definitely have that culture, and it’s something that that’s what we’re striving to get here.”