A Capsule Look at the Colts' Sunday Showdown against the JaguarsJacksonville Jaguars (8-5) vs. Indianapolis Colts (7-6)
Sunday, December 19, 2010 (1:00 p.m. ET)
Lucas Oil Stadium (63,000 capacity) – Indianapolis, Indiana
Television/Radio: Television/Radio: CBS Sports, SportsUSA Radio and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1
THE GAMETwenty-one points.
If one added up the point differential in the last six games between the Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars, that is the total, 21 points.
To say these games have been close for the past two-and-half years would be an understatement.
Since the Colts' 29-7 victory over the Jaguars on Monday Night Football in October of 2007, the six meetings between the two AFC South rivals has ended with no more than a touchdown separating the teams.
"I think within our division that is kind of the way it is," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "It's just a tough division that is highly competitive where you have a lot of teams that play well against one another no matter what their record is. I guess 13 out of 19 times it's been decided by a touchdown or less. Eight of those times it's been five points or less. When you think about that, how tight it is, how tough it is, there is not much room for error. I think that's the way it is going to be."
Decreasing the room for error is the fact both teams are so familiar with each other. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said there are good and bad things about having the level of familiarity the Colts and Jaguars have with each other.
"It works both ways," Manning said. "Certainly, Jacksonville is very familiar with our offense. Our offense has been the same. Their defensive scheme has changed through the years with different defensive coordinators. It has been the same the past couple of years. They are playing really well right now. They are playing together, very opportunistic and coming off a good win. Like we say week-in and week-out, it probably comes down to execution. You're not going to trick them. It's not going to be a lot of fooling the team out there as much as it's going to be who can execute their offense or defense better."
The Jaguars won the first contest between the teams, 31-28, on a 59-yard field goal by Josh Scobee as time expired. As well as the Jaguars played on October 3 in beating the Colts, Caldwell says Jacksonville's consistency and improvement since that ballgame has impressed him the most.
"They are playing extremely well," Caldwell said. "Obviously, they were playing good football then, too. When they played against us (the first time) they ran the ball well, were opportunistic and took the ball away from us. This team is the same kind of team. They change a little bit here and there, but for the most part when you find teams that start to play consistently well, they don't change a whole lot. I think it was Woody Hayes that always said that good teams have tendencies. That is because of the fact that they believe in what they are doing, and you are going to see it regardless of what you play from a defensive standpoint or what you do from an offensive standpoint."
The Jaguars have won five of their last six games heading into Sunday's matchup. The big key for Jacksonville has been running the ball. The Jaguars have led the league in rushing the last six weeks as running back Maurice Jones-Drew has rushed for more than 100 yards in all six games.
"For us, we're doing what we do every week," Jacksonville Head Coach Jack Del Rio said. "We're geared up to really go in and prepare for this opportunity. We understand some of the strengths and some of the weaknesses and some of the concern areas and some of the matchup problems. That's what we're working on right now, just putting together a good plan and trying to get some guys healed up and come up there and put forth the best effort we can as a football team and find a way."
Jacksonville enters Sunday one game ahead of the Colts in the race for the playoffs, and a win on Sunday against the Colts clinches the franchise's first AFC South title. But the Jaguars say they are not thinking about any playoff implications. Instead, they are taking it one game at a time.
"We have to win every one of these games down the stretch," Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "Obviously, in December each game gets bigger and bigger. This is definitely a big game for us. We're going to be focused into the details. Obviously, when you play a team twice, you have to be that much more on your game because they know your tendencies and vice versa. This is definitely a big game for us. We understand that and we accept the challenge.
"We're looking forward to it. We're looking forward to going in there and playing a good game and we'll live with the result. As long as we play Jag football, things will be in our favor."
FOCUS ON THE COLTS The Colts enter Sunday's game one game back of Jacksonville for first place in the AFC South, making the matchup pivotal for the team's chances of winning its seventh AFC South division title in eight seasons. But despite all their success in recent seasons, the importance of the game on Sunday is not a totally new feeling for the Colts.
"I think people think we haven't played any meaningful games in December and that is just not true," Manning said. "Through the years, we've had a lot of important games throughout the month of December that have either been for the division or to stay alive or home-field, whatever it may be. We've always had important games. This one, you can put it anyway you want it, is a playoff game. This is probably a lose and be eliminated. Last week was as well. We feel like this is our second playoff game. That's the approach. That's how we have to prepare with that kind of sense of urgency. We're playing a Jacksonville team that's really hot, playing with a lot of momentum and beat us the first time down there. We've always had close games with these guys both home and away. That's what we expect this week."
While the Colts never waver from their philosophy of looking past the next game ahead of them, they do know a loss on Sunday means they probably will not make the playoffs for the first time since the 2001 season.
"Facts are facts, right?," Caldwell said. "It's a fact that we have to win it. Whatever you label it, however you call it, I think we all know what it is. It is a ballgame that is going to be tough. It is going to be hard. It is going to be difficult. The atmosphere is going to be such that it is going to be highly competitive and there is a lot at stake."
Which is why Colts players and coaches are united in saying their playoffs already have started.
"It's a make-it, take-it situation," Caldwell said. "I think it's probably appropriate. This is a game that we all played back on the old basketball courts. If you are able to get a string going, you are able to stay out there and keep playing and it was your ball and that is the way it is. What I am looking at is the fact that we have a great opportunity ahead of us against a challenging team in a great setting. We play them at home. It's going to be an exciting ballgame."
Of the Colts six losses this season, four have been by a field goal or less. With a lucky bounce here or there in those games, the Colts' situation in the AFC South could be very different. But you won't find Caldwell lamenting lost chances.
"That is so far removed from my mind," Caldwell said. "That is one of the ideas I was talking about when I said navigate where you are. My job is to stay focused and try to win. That's the only thing that is going to get us to where we (want to be). We cannot deviate, cannot drift off or sort of have euphoric ideas about what ifs. Those things do not make a bit of difference for us in terms of preparation, and right now that preparation is vital. It is key. It is critical. So that is our mission, (our) critical statement right now, we have to focus in on where we are."
One advantage for the Colts is the bevy of veteran players the team has. Among others, Manning and Reggie Wayne on offense and Gary Brackett and Dwight Freeney on defense have helped lead the Colts to many crucial victories. Caldwell says the team will lean on their veterans to get through the next few weeks.
"We always do," Caldwell said. "That is one of the things we try to do and that is empower those guys because of the fact that they have had an opportunity to go through it. They know what it's all about. They can relay things to players in maybe a little different way perhaps than I would, and I think that is good. I think that's effective, and I think it's needed as well."
Manning said one of the keys for Sunday's game is for the Colts to prepare for the game like they have all the others.
"You still prepare with that same sense of urgency," Manning said. "I think we've always prepared and played each opponent with the utmost respect and sense of urgency. That's what we've done in the past, and that's what we have to do this week. We have no choice. We have to have a good week of practice, and hopefully that can transfer onto the playing field Sunday."
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE JAGUARSJacksonville comes into the game with an 8-5 record and has won five of its last six games.
A big reason for the team's recent success is their run game. For the season, the team ranks second in the NFL in rushes per game (33.2) and rushing yards per game (157.8), but over the last six games the team has averaged 193.0 rushing yards per game, top in the league in that time span.
"I think they are a team that wants to establish the run first and foremost," Caldwell said. "I don't think there is any question about that. All you have to do is take a look at how they approach every ballgame. They want to try to run it downhill at you as much as possible. It sets up other things off of that."
Jones-Drew has been the catalyst for the Jaguars' red hot play as of late as he has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the last six games and currently ranks second in the league in rushing this season with 1,278 yards.
"One of the things that you do realize is that you are not going to stop Jones-Drew completely," Caldwell said. "You are just not going to do it. It is just one of those things that he's a very, very good back, and he is going to get some yards."
The Jaguars use the running game to hold onto the ball and run the clock. The team ranks fourth in the league in time of possession, averaging 31:55 a game.
"What we have to do is make certain that we contain it enough that they don't just chewup ground on us and keep possessions away from us and then score on top of it," Caldwell said. "We have to make certain that we are able to keep big plays down. What you don't want is for them to be able to rip off 12- and 18- and 20-yard runs on you. So you have to keep that certainly contained and that's what you have to do. You have to be able to get off the field, and they are tough to get off of the field. They lead the league with fewest three-and-outs with 12. The next closest team is Houston with 21, and we are fairly close as well. They do a good job of that, and a lot of that is because of (Jones-Drew)."
Another reason Jones-Drew has been so effective this season is the play of quarterback David Garrard. The ninth-year player is tied with former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell for the franchise's single-season touchdown passes record with 20, and this season when Garrard throws two or more touchdowns in a game, the Jaguars are 7-0. If he throws fewer than two touchdown passes, Jacksonville is 1-5.
"They are not one-dimensional by any stretch of the imagination," Caldwell said. "They can throw the ball. Garrard, you can see by his numbers, is throwing the ball pretty well. But also, as part of that, he's one of those guys that is a two-dimensional guy, meaning that he can throw the ball, but he can also hurt you with his feet as well. He can get outside of the pocket and make things happen in open space. If you're covering a lot of man-to-man on him and turn you back to him, he is going to take off and run. He can break contain, get out on the move, but keep his eyes downfield and create big plays that way. They do a number of things extremely well, but the running game is obviously where they begin.
Overall, the offense has been able to put the Jaguars in good position this season to win games at the end. Jacksonville has scored the winning points in four games this season with less than two minutes to go in the game.
"It's really execution at crunch time," Del Rio said. "We put a lot of work into the scenarios we anticipate seeing. We've been fortunate to be able to execute at a high level in some of these situations this year and close some games. I think for us we just continue to work at it that way and go out and compete at it. You certainly like to think you've given an opportunity to do just that.
"I do think as a football team each year is different. I do believe we have grown in confidence as the year has gone on due to our ability to find ways as a football team to come out on top. You do work at it. Certainly, we've had some good moments this year closing the deal."
QUOTABLES"He has been, and it would be an understatement to say he has been deadly," Caldwell said. "That's the thing that you have to be concerned in close games with him is the fact that there is not a whole lot of room for error. If he is within distance, he's got a shot at it. I remember last year, the first game of the year, he ended up just missing a 62- or 63-yarder just by a very narrow margin. He has got a great leg and he is also accurate."
*- Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on Jacksonville K-Josh Scobee.
*"I don't think it's overlooked; maybe overlooked by those that are outside of the individuals that play between those white lines, but certainly not overlooked by us. They are a very, very tough team and tough team to deal with, tough team to play. They are a very well-coached group. They are going to give you all they got, and I think it's going to be one of those games whoever executes best, makes the fewest mistakes is going to win."
*- Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on the rivalry between Jacksonville and Indianapolis.
*"I think he has been for a number of years. There's no question about that. He's been unbelievably consistent. His route-running, his understanding of defenses, his run blocking, he is just an all around consistent player that has played at a high level every single year."
*- Colts QB-Peyton Manning on WR-Reggie Wayne
*STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR… 1. Jaguars have been good this season at avoiding three-and-outs and maintaining possessionThe Jaguars lead the NFL in the fewest three-and-out drives with only 12 in 13 games this season.
Their ability to stay away from these quick possessions is a credit to their ability to run the football.
Jacksonville likes to dictate the pace of the game, and its ability to put long drives together and keep the ball away from the Colts offense will most likely be one of their keys to victory.
The Jaguars rank second in the NFL in rushing yards per game, averaging 157.8 yards. Jacksonville averages 33.2 carries a game, which also ranks second in the league.
For the season, Jacksonville ranks fourth in the league in average time of possession, averaging to hold the ball for 31:55. In their last six games, which the Jaguars have won five, they have averaged to possess the ball for 34:27.
OFFENSIVE THREE-AND-OUT DRIVES Team Drives 3-and-Out Pct.1. Jacksonville 141 12 8.5
2. Houston 148 24 16.2
3. New Orleans 141 24 17.0
4. San Diego 150 26 17.3
5. COLTS 143 25 17.5 Atlanta 143 25 17.5
2. Reggie Wayne vs. the JaguarsReggie Wayne has put up some of the best numbers of his career when playing against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Earlier this season against Jacksonville, Wayne had 15 receptions for 196 yards, which were both career-highs at the time. The 15 receptions is still a career-high, but Wayne eclipsed his 196 yards against the Jaguars this season with a 200-yard effort against Dallas two weeks ago.
For his career, Wayne has 101 catches for 1,552 yards and six touchdowns against Jacksonville. The receiving yards are the most for Wayne against any opponent in the NFL and the catches rank second.
This season, Wayne ranks second in the league in both receptions (94) and yards (1,213). He needs 10 more catches to tie his single-season high of 104 in 2007.
Wayne's next touchdown reception will be the 69th of his career and will move him past Raymond Berry for the second-most receiving touchdowns in franchise history.
Reggie Wayne vs. Jacksonville Last Eight Games
Date Rec. Yards TD
12/10/06 8 110 0
10/22/07 9 131 0
12/02/07 8 158 1
09/21/08 3 74 0
12/18/08 7 108 1
09/13/09 10 162 1
12/17/09 5 132 1
10/03/10 15 196 0
Totals 65 1,071 4
3. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. the ColtsA key for the Colts on Sunday will be to limit Jones-Drew's effectiveness. The 2009 Pro Bowl running back has rushed for 883 yards on 165 carries for an average of 5.4 yards per carry in his career against the Colts. Of his 165 rushes, 27 have been for 10 or more yards, while only 19 have gone for zero or negative yardage.
In the Jaguars' three wins against the Colts while having Jones-Drew, the running back has rushed 60 times for 378 yards. That averages out to more than six yards per carry. He has also broken for runs of 10 yards or more 14 times in those three games. In the Colts' six victories over the Jaguars, Jones-Drew has rushed 105 times for 505 yards, an average of 4.95 yards per carry. Also in those six meetings, Jones-Drew has only 13 rushes for 10 or more yards, while also having 13 rushes that went for zero or negative yards.
This season, Jones-Drew is second in the league in rushing with 1,278 yards and has rushed for more than 100 yards in the Jaguars' last six games.
Maurice Jones-Drew vs. the Colts Date Att. Yards TD 10 0-09/24/06 13 103 0 4 0
12/10/06* 15 166 2 7 0
10/22/07 13 52 1 1 2
12/02/07 11 52 1 2 3
09/21/08* 19 107 1 5 4
12/18/08 20 91 0 2 2
09/13/09 21 97 1 1 0
12/17/09 27 110 1 3 6
10/03/10* 26 105 1 2 2
Totals 165 883 8 27 19*-Jacksonville win