AFC South Rivals Jaguars, Colts Familiar With One Another
INDIANAPOLIS – They're familiar opponents facing similar situations.
As Tony Dungy sees it, when the Colts play their AFC South rival, the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, there are a few obvious storylines.
Both teams have high aspirations for the season.
Both teams have faced obstacles early.
And both teams have had trouble staying healthy, particularly along the offensive line.
But no matter the storylines, and no matter how many starting offensive linemen each team will have available in Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday, Dungy – in his seventh season as the Colts' head coach – said one thing is true, as it always is when the Colts and Jaguars play:
The teams are very, very familiar with each other.
And that means whatever else happens Sunday, there should be few surprises.
"It's going to be an execution game again," Dungy said as the Colts (1-1) prepared to play the Jaguars (0-2) in an AFC South game at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
"They're going to come up here and stick with their plan and run their two backs and throw accurate, medium-range passes. They're going to be in a four-man front and line up and see if you can move their big guys inside. They're going to give us coverages that we know we're going to get.
"We're going to do the same thing, so it is one of those games where you just feel like, 'We've got to go out and outplay them.' Whoever does that the best is going to win."
The Colts, the five-time defending AFC South Champions, lost their opener, 29-13, to Chicago at Lucas Oil Stadium before rallying from an 15-point, third-quarter deficit for an 18-15 victory over Minnesota this past Sunday.
That kept the Colts a game behind division-leading Tennessee (2-0), and moved them one game ahead of Jacksonville (0-2), which after losing at Tennessee (17-10) in the opener lost a six-point second-half lead en route to a 20-16 loss to Buffalo in Jacksonville this past weekend.
"We never imagined we'd be 0-2," Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer told Jaguars.com following the loss to the Bills. "That was never in the plan, but that's what it is. It's going to be hard not to think about it, but it's real.
"Now we have to go to Indianapolis and play our best game."
The Colts and Jaguars enter the third week of the season with one striking similarity. Each has sustained a rash of injuries along the offensive line.
"Where their problem has become is exactly like ours," Colts President Bill Polian said this week. "So, they're in a position where they're fighting hard to get some offensive continuity because of all of the new people they have had to play on the offensive line."
A playoff team two of the past three seasons, the Jaguars are currently without starting center Brad Meester (biceps) and already this season they have placed starting left guard Vince Manuwai (knee) and starting right guard Maurice Williams (biceps) on injured reserve, ending their season.
Meester is expected to be out at least two more weeks, and the Jaguars also without their top reserve tackle, Richard Collier, who was shot two weeks ago.
The Colts, who ended the victory over the Vikings Sunday without center Jeff Saturday, left tackle Tony Ugoh, guard Ryan Diem and guard Mike Pollak, have rushed for 39.0 yards per game and are 32nd in the NFL in rushing through two weeks.
The Jaguars, who ranked second in the NFL in rushing last season, have averaged 65.5 yards per game and are ranked 28th. Fred Taylor, a Pro Bowl selection last season, has rushed for 67 yards on 23 carries – a 2.9-yards-per-carry average compared to 5.4 last season and 4.7 for his career entering the season.
Third-year veteran Maurice Jones-Drew, one of the NFL's top breakaway threats, has rushed 12 times for 30 yards for a 2.5-yard average compared to 4.6 last season and 5.1 for his career.
"They're like us," Dungy said. "They have some new offensive linemen playing because of injuries. They haven't run the ball nearly as well as they're capable of with those two runners. When you see their stats and they're averaging 2.9 or 3.0 yards per carry, that's very unusual for them.
"I think both teams are going to look at, 'Hey we have new guys in there, but we have to run the ball better.' I'm sure we'll see both of those guys run it quite a bit."
The Jaguars in the last several seasons have developed into one of the Colts' fiercest rivals. The teams have played 12 times since the formation of the AFC South in 2002, with the Colts winning nine of the meetings. Indianapolis holds an 11-3 all-time series lead, including a sweep in the series a season ago.
The Colts swept the Jaguars in 2002, 2005 and last season, and the teams split the series in 2003, 2004, 2006. The Jaguars' lone victory in Indianapolis came in 2004, when the Jaguars won, 27-24, on a 53-yard field goal in the final two minutes by kicker Josh Scobee.
Indianapolis won, 29-7, in Jacksonville last October, then held off a second-half rally to beat Jacksonville in Indianapolis in December, 28-25.
And Colts linebacker Gary Brackett said whereas last week the Colts spent time before and during the game adapting to the unfamiliar skills of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the preparation this week should be a bit more straightforward.
"It's a lot different than it was last week, with Adrian Peterson and (Vikings running back) Chester Taylor," Brackett said. "There were so many unknowns not facing those guys year in and year out as we do Jacksonville. There's a little bit of familiarity with Jacksonville. We know how to play these guys. We play them two times a year, so we know exactly what to expect from Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor.
"It comes down to execution. All of the cards are on the table. They know exactly what we're going to do. We know what they're going to go. It's a matter of who's going to execute."
But with the Jaguars entering the game an unexpected 0-2, Brackett and Dungy each said what traditionally is a difficult test for the Colts could be even tougher.
"I think it's a little bit . . . not desperation, but a sense of urgency," Brackett said. "Obviously, teams definitely don't want to be down 0-2, but they really don't want to be down 0-3. I'm sure they're going to be wanting to get a win. I'm sure (Jaguars Head Coach) Jack Del Rio is telling those guys the same thing – no matter what their record is, if they win the AFC South, they get playoff bid.
"Let's not kid ourselves. No matter what record it is, it's good to have great playoff seedings, but that doesn't guarantee getting to the Super Bowl. The main thing is for guys to get to the playoffs, and in order to do that, you have to win the division."
Said Dungy, "We went up to Minnesota 0-1 and really not wanting to go to 0-2. I thought we played hard and continued to fight. These guys are going to be the same way. They don't want to lose a second division game on the road. They certainly aren't going to want to go to 0-3. We're going to see everything they've got.
"We have to expect that type of game and be ready for it. We have to play much better than we played the first two games."