INDIANAPOLIS – Last year's Colts-Jaguars game in Lucas Oil Stadium flipped on a dime early in the second half because of one player – Maurice Jones-Drew.
Indianapolis had extended its lead to 14-3 in the final seconds of the first half and those not in their seats two minutes into the third period missed Jones-Drew bolting 59 yards for a touchdown.
By the time 60 minutes had been played, Jones-Drew had 28 carries for 177 yards and the Jaguars had one of their two victories.
To say the 5-7, 210-pound back is on the Colts' radar screen is an understatement.
"He's built like a fire hydrant, runs like a shorebird," said Chuck Pagano. "Tree trunks for legs. Never stops churning. Powerful, powerful guy. We know what type of runs he excels at. Our guys are fully aware of what he can do.
"Everybody's got to be on the same page, and then we got to gang tackle. A lot of guys bounce off this guy, and rightfully so. He is hard to get down, but we are going to do our darnedest to get him on the ground."
Pagano felt the lash of Jones-Drew just as Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell did. Jones-Drew has authored eight 100-yard games against Indianapolis, one shy of Curtis Martin's record again the Colts. His 1,389 career rushing yards rank second to Martin's 1,645, and his 10 career touchdowns are tied for fourth-most. Paul Hornung, a Hall-of-Famer like Martin, holds that mark at 13.
"He's a thick-bodied guy that runs with his pads down," said Greg Manusky. "He's a downhill runner, has great vision. I think he can make all the cuts. He's just a tough, physical runner that's been producing for a number of years. We've got to keep him where he's not.
"They just keep on giving him the ball and he might get three yards and he might get two yards but then eventually, they're going to try to get him to break one. That's what we got to stop."
Jacksonville has swung this hammer 258 times against the Colts in 13 outings. Jones-Drew has more attempts, yards and 100-yard games against the Colts than any other team he has faced, while he has 10 rushing touchdowns also against Houston.
"MJD is one of the best in the league," said Antoine Bethea, a tough bird who knows another when he sees one. "MJD is a tough guy to bring down. Any time he gets the ball, he can take it to the end zone.
"He's a top five (in my career book). I talk about Travis Henry. It's those short, compact-type guys that have low gravity that are tough to get down. MJD, he's there."
In 102 career games, Jones-Drew has topped 100 yards 26 times while gaining 7,383 yards, fifth-most among active rushers. His 5.4 career average is the best against any opponent he has faced more than twice. The Jaguars are 18-8 when he tops 100 rushing yards, 21-12 when he has 20-plus rushes and 11-4 when he has multiple touchdowns.
The Colts last week halted San Francisco over the last three periods, allowing 28 rushing yards over the game's last 49 minutes. It was the best defensive effort of the season, and Indianapolis knows the target.
"They're just going to give him the ball regardless of if he's getting one yard, two yards," said Jerrell Freeman. "They're just going to keep feeding (him) the ball and hope he pops one. Unfortunately, we were unable to stop him. The game we had here, he got to pop one of them."
Cory Redding reinforced the notion that a cooperative effort is the recipe to stop Jones-Drew.
"One guy get there, hit him high, slide down to the ankle and hold on until the other 10 guys get there. That's how you stop him," said Redding. "You got to have four or five guys on him at one point. It's very hard for one guy to take him down by himself.
"He has strong, powerful legs, he's a tough runner and he can cut back on a dime and find the holes whenever you don't think they're there. It's going to be a total defensive effort again this week to stop the run."