INDIANAPOLIS – A capsule look at the Colts' opponent this week, the Jacksonville Jaguars of the AFC South.
Synopsis: With one game remaining in the 2011 regular season, the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars will have the opportunity to head into the offseason on a positive note with a victory over an AFC South foe.
In the first meeting between the teams at Lucas Oil Stadium in week 10, the Jaguars defeated the Colts, 17-3. In week 17, Jacksonville will look to improve to 2-0 against Indianapolis, and sweep the Colts in the season series for the first time in club history.
Indianapolis will hold nothing back this week as it prepares for the final game. The Colts have fortified their season with consecutive home wins over Tennessee (27-13) and Houston (19-16). With a victory over Jacksonville, the Colts would finish .500 in AFC South play this season. The only other time the team finished at .500 in the division was in 2006.
Sunday's match-up will feature new looks for both clubs as each will enter the contest with altered coaching staffs from the previous meeting.
For Jacksonville, interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker was elevated to his current position after 11 games. Jack Del Rio's run as the Jaguars' head coach extended back to 2003. The move was made following a 3-8 start and after consecutive losses to Cleveland and Houston.
Indianapolis also experienced changes on the coaching staff. Linebackers Coach Mike Murphy was given the additional title of defensive coordinator after the club's 27-19 loss to Carolina on November 27.
Despite the mid-season change in command for Jacksonville, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell still sees the same fight and tenacity that he has come to expect from the Jaguars over the years.
"They are playing well, and I've always thought they've played hard and played well," said Caldwell. "Obviously, we've had trouble with them year-in and year-out, and I don't think this game is going to be any different. I still think they are playing good football."
Although the Jaguars sit at 4-11 on the season, the team has experienced a number of bright spots, including the NFL's leading rusher and fifth-ranked defense.
"They still look like a pretty talented team that has good, young players, the leading rusher in the league (Maurice Jones-Drew) and (they are) still playing good, solid defense," said Caldwell. "Oftentimes, you can see in the games that there is just (a small) difference between ending up on the positive or negative side of the ledger. They are still just as dangerous in every single phase. I think they've gotten better, to be honest with you."
After taking over interim duties, Tucker has continued to shoulder the load of defensive coordinator, and his unit currently ranks among the best in the NFL.
Jacksonville has made a habit of forcing opponents to turn the ball over, as the Jaguars rank 11th in the league in turnover differential ( 3). The turnover differential can be attributed to the opportunistic mindset of the defense. Jacksonville currently ranks among AFC leaders in forced fumbles (14) and interceptions (15).
The Jaguars have also held opponents to 17 points or fewer seven times this season, and currently rank tied for 10th in the NFL in points per game allowed (21.1).
With one of the league's top defenses coupled with Jones-Drew, Indianapolis will have its hands full come Sunday. Jones-Drew tops the league with 1,437 rushing yards, and he is the lone Jacksonville Pro Bowl selection. His yardage total marks a career-best, and he rushed 25 times for 114 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting between the teams this year. This is the fourth consecutive year Jones-Drew has topped 1,300 rushing yards.
In 11 career outings against Indianapolis, he has 205 rushes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns. His rushing yards are the fifth-most by any back against the Colts, while only seven performers ever have topped 1,000 rushing yards against the club. Jones-Drew can become the fifth back ever to tally double-digit rushing touchdowns against the Colts, and his six 100 games tie for third-most ever against the Colts.
Caldwell expressed the importance of going out each and every week with the same competitive drive and desire to improve, regardless of the team's record.
"What we are trying to do, and (what) we have been trying to do, is get incrementally better, just a little bit better each and every week," said Caldwell. "I think our guys have been doing that, and this one will also be a challenge to get just a little bit better this week. I think that is indeed the key, and we are going to face an opponent that is doing the exact same thing. They are fighting, scratching and still playing tough, hard-nosed football."
*2011 Record: *4-11, Third in AFC South.
*Head Coach: *Mel Tucker, 1st season as Jaguars and NFL Head Coach (1-3).
*Last game: *The Jacksonville Jaguars traveled to Tennessee in a Week 16 match-up between AFC South foes with the hopes of sweeping the Titans on the season. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew accounted for 124 total yards of offense and one touchdown for Jacksonville, but he was unable to help lead his team to victory. Titans tight end Jared Cook recorded eight receptions for 169 yards and one touchdown, as Tennessee was able to keep its playoff hopes alive with a 23-17 victory. Jacksonville trailed throughout, but cut three different double-digit deficits to six points with just less than four minutes remaining, but Tennessee was able to extinguish the clock.
*2011 NFL Rankings: *Offense – Overall, 32nd (259.2); Rushing, 13th (118.7); Passing, 32nd (140.5); Defense – Overall, 5th (314.0); Rushing, 11th (107.4); Passing, 7th (206.6).
*2011 Leading Passer: *Blaine Gabbert (199-394 comp., 2,122 yards, 50.5 pct., 11 TDs, 11 INTs, 64.3 rating).
*2011 Leading Rusher: *Maurice Jones-Drew (318 carries, 1,437 yards, 8 TDs).
*2011 Leading Receiver: *Mike Thomas (43 receptions, 417 yards, 1 TD).
2011 Leading Sacker: Jeremy Mincey (5.5).
2011 Turnover Breakdown: 3 (11th).
First-round draft choice: Blaine Gabbert, quarterback. With the 10th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Blaine Gabbert out of the University of Missouri. Gabbert received All-Big 12 honors in 2009 and 2010, and was named to the Davey O'Brien and Manning Awards watch list in 2010. In his final season at Missouri he threw for 3,186 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
*2010 Review: *Heading into week 15 at 8-5, the Jaguars found themselves in control of their own AFC South destiny. Following back-to-back victories over the Titans and Raiders the team would drop its final three games of the season, two of which were to AFC South foes. Jacksonville finished 8-8 on the season, and elected to select the team's quarterback of the future in Blaine Gabbert with the 10th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Last time in Playoffs: L, 31-20 at New England (2007).
*Last time in Super Bowl: *None.
*Super Bowl Championships: *None.
*2010 Pro Bowl Selections: *Maurice Jones-Drew RB, Marcedes Lewis TE, Montell Owens ST.
*2011 Pro Bowl Selections: *Maurice Jones-Drew RB.
Quotable I: On the continued effort put forth by the players:
"I can only tell by what I see on the field during practice and the games, but I see guys are playing hard. The effort is there. The intensity and focus is there. To get better, we obviously need to improve our execution. The want-to is there, but we all know that can only go so far. The execution is what gets you over the top and that's where we need to improve the most."
--- Jaguars interim Head Coach Mel Tucker
Quotable II: On the loss to the Tennessee Titans:
"It was very disappointing. The guys fought hard. The effort was there all the way to the end, but we didn't execute well enough on our side of the ball. We didn't make enough plays."
--- Jaguars interim Head Coach Mel Tucker