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INDIANAPOLIS – As the Colts head into their 10th game of 2011 they take on a familiar foe in AFC South division rival Jacksonville.
One thing that could be expected when these teams get together is a down-to-the-wire contest with the deciding score coming late in the action. Twelve of the last 15 games have been decided by one possession.
The Jaguars are 8-8 following bye weeks and are currently 2-6 on the season.
In April's draft, the Jaguars turned to quarterback Blaine Gabbert with the 10th overall pick, and he has thrown for five touchdowns in his six starts.
"He's done a pretty solid job really of kind of being unflappable," Head Coach Jack Del Rio said. "It's not easy coming into this league playing the most demanding position in all of professional sports. I like the way he's approached things. He's a sharp guy, he's studying hard, he's spending the extra time trying to dial in on his opponents each week, he's got physical talent, he's got the will to prepare, and I think he's got a bright future. Clearly that part of our offense, the passing game part of our offense is (lacking). We've played good defense through the years, we've run the ball well through the years, we haven't been very penalized, and we've been a pretty smart and tough team. Having a quarterback that has a chance to be a real franchise quarterback is a real exciting thing for us, and we're just trying to grow with him and around him and bring him along. We know that there's a bright future with a guy like that in the mix."
With a rookie quarterback in the fold, the Jaguars have leaned on running back Maurice Jones-Drew throughout their first eight games of the season.
In 10 career games against the Colts, Jones-Drew has 929 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Since 2010, Jones-Drew has averaged 93.8 rushing yards a game, which is among the NFL leaders.
Last week the Colts faced a power-back in Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons and will see a similar runner on Sunday.
"(Michael) Turner, he's a big dude," Colts linebacker Pat Angerer said. "I didn't realize how big he was until I was trying to tackle him. (Maurice Jones-Drew is) the same kind of guy. He's a little bit shorter, but his legs are like tree trunks, and he'll be a tough, tough guy to tackle."
One area that will help the Colts' rush defense on Sunday is the return of defensive tackle Drake Nevis. The Colts' 2011 third-round pick played the first four games of the year before being sidelined with a lower back injury.
"It does give us, obviously, some help there," Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "He was playing pretty well for us during the stretch before he was injured. He's a good, talented guy with some quickness, so we're looking forward to getting him back in action."
In the passing department, Jaguars wide receiver Mike Thomas has averaged 15.1 yards per reception against the Colts, including returning a punt for a touchdown last December.
Defensively, linebackers Paul Posluszny and Daryl Smith pace the unit. Posluszny leads the defense with 100 tackles in 2011.
The unit ranks fifth in total yards allowed (307.0) which is an upgrade from the 28th-ranked defense last season.
In the secondary safeties Dwight Lowery (Jets) and Dawan Landry (Ravens) both joined the Jaguars in the off-season.
Another new face to the Jaguars defense is former Colts linebacker Clint Session.
"I'm going to go out there, and I'm going to try to have my team ready to play some good football," said Session. "I'm going to definitely be 'geeked-up' out there, but it's going to be all fun, nothing cheap, no cheap shots, just good old-fashioned football.''
For the Colts, the 'Next Man Up' theory will be applied again this week as tight end Jacob Tamme is expected to start with both Dallas Clark and Brody Eldridge out due to injury.
Last year, Tamme caught 67 passes and gives Painter another weapon in the passing game.
"Yeah, since they (Clark and Eldridge) both went out of the game close to each other at the same time (last week, I'll be ready)," said Tamme. "It's always part of what can happen in an NFL game. It's the same thing moving forward, and (I am) just waiting to see what the situation is and prepare like I do every week. It's the same for the rest of the squad, and we'll be ready to go come Sunday."
Colts 34, Jaguars 24 – December 19, 2010
With their backs against the wall in the final four games of the 2010 season, the Colts overcame injuries to beat the Jaguars, 34-24, at Lucas Oil Stadium in week 15 of the season. For the early part of the game, wide receiver Austin Collie looked to be the highlight of the afternoon. Collie capped off the first drive of the game with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning. The Jaguars answered with an early second-quarter field goal before the Manning-to-Collie combination struck again. On a second-and-18 from the Jaguars 43-yard line, Collie hauled in a 21-yard pass. After a false start penalty on the next play, Collie caught his second touchdown pass, a 27-yard reception from Manning. After Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown, Manning and Collie went to work again. This time though, the physical nature of the game of football struck as Collie was knocked out of the game on a pass over the middle with 1:07 left in the second quarter. In less than a half of football, Collie had eight catches for 87 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Forced to have other guys step up, running back Donald Brown answered the bell. Starting in place of the injured Joseph Addai, Brown scored on a 43-yard touchdown run on the Colts' second play of the second half giving Indianapolis a 21-10 lead. Brown earlier had provided a 49-yard run on the club's first scoring drive. Kicker Adam Vinatieri would kick a pair of field goals around a Jaguars touchdown, putting the lead at 27-17 with just less than 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. David Garrard hit Mike Sims-Walker for a one-yard score with 1:54 remaining. The Colts put the finishing touches on their victory on the onside kick when linebacker Tyjuan Hagler scooped up the Josh Scobee kick and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown, making the final score 34-24. The game marked the 206th career game for Manning which tied him with John Unitas for the club record. Brown carried the ball 14 times for a career-high 129 yards in helping a rushing offense outgain the Jaguars, 155-67. The evenly-matched gamed showed the Jaguars having one more first down than the Colts, holding a 44-second time of possession advantage and the Colts having just 20 more total yards than the visitors.
Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew against the Colts defense: In a division that produces great running backs, the Colts face another in Jones-Drew. Since 2006, Jones-Drew has scored 12 touchdowns against the Colts. The Jaguars' 152.5 rushing yards averaged against divisional opponents since 2006 is the most in the league. The Colts are expected to welcome back the services of third round pick Drake Nevis on Sunday. The defensive tackle has missed the past five games with a back injury. Similar to the Colts, the Jaguars have had numerous starting combinations along the offensive line in 2011.
Colts quarterback Curtis Painter against the Jaguars defense: With running back Joseph Addai's status uncertain heading into Sunday's game, Painter and the passing game will need to operate efficiently. Painter has thrown for five touchdowns this season and is looking to get back to the big plays the offense showed in the first five games of the season. The offense will be without the services of tight ends Dallas Clark and Brody Eldridge on Sunday as both were hurt in the loss last week to Atlanta. Sliding into the starting role will be Jacob Tamme, who was second on the team last season with 67 catches.
-Colts running back Donald Brown ran for a career-high 129 yards last year against the Jaguars.
-Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne had 196 reception yards in the first meeting against the Jaguars last season, which is the second-highest total of his career.
-Colts linebacker Pat Angerer (97) leads the NFL in tackles.
-Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney is 1.5 sacks away from 100 in his career.
-Colts center Jeff Saturday and right guard Ryan Diem have started 137 games together on the offensive line.
-Jaguars linebacker Clint Session spent 2007-10 with the Colts.
-Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis has a franchise record with 30 career interceptions and 35 takeaways.
-Jaguars center Brad Meester holds the franchise record with 169 career starts.
-Jaguars defensive tackles Tyson Alualu (24 games) and Terrence Knighton (40 games) have not missed a start in their careers.
-Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith holds franchise record with 1,004 career tackles.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell (on Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert):
"It appears, obviously, that he's a guy with talent. (He's) a big, strong guy that can throw the ball, and not only that, but he can move (and) he can run. You can see him convert third downs and things of that nature with his feet, so he's a pretty dangerous guy. Just like anybody else in this league, they learn and develop as time goes on, and you can see him getting better and better each and every week. He's a pretty impressive physical specimen that you see week after week that he just gets a little bit better."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell (on punter Pat McAfee's performance this season):
"Pat has been, obviously, deadly at times for us, just in terms of getting us that long, high punt when we need him. He's been a guy that certainly has helped us a tremendous amount. He's gotten to be a very, very consistent guy who has been able to kind of place the ball where he wants, not only from a punting standpoint, but then you look at what he does in terms of drive start average for kickoffs. He's been able to kick that thing out of the end zone where we've had fewer returns, which certainly does indeed help our defense to keep people backed up in their own territory, or at least start backed up in their own territory. He's been valuable, and then you look at what he does in terms of holding. So all three phases, he's a pretty important part of our team."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell(on tight end Jacob Tamme):
"He's one of those guys that doesn't seem like he ever gets tired, first of all. He runs all day, and certainly, he does a great job just in terms of his preparation. He participates in all of our special teams, he's typically all over the field and not only that, but obviously in this particular case when Dallas (Clark) is out he's going to carry quite a load. He works hard, very, very smart, does a great job in terms of his preparation and study and he also does a great job just in terms of setting a tone in terms of leadership."
Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney(on the Jaguars offense with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback):
"Well, I think they kind of reduce their packages on offense. Obviously he's a rookie, and you don't want to put those guys in positions to make too many mistakes. It's a little bit different team from the standpoint of they simplify the game plan just a little bit. But they still have number 32 (Maurice Jones-Drew), and that is the key to their offense for years. As a defense, we know we have to stop him. They're going to try to get him the ball as many possible ways (as they can), on screens, quick passes, check-downs and running the ball."
Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney(on what makes Maurice Jones-Drew tough to defend): "That's the thing, he's definitely a crafty back. He has, probably, the second-most carries in the league. He has like 160 or some odd carries, so he's definitely hard to find. But we know that, and we've played against him in the past, obviously. We did a good job last time they came here last year against him, so we know we can stop him. It's just about putting a complete game together."
Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio(on how the season has gone so far):
"The biggest thing is we haven't won as much as we'd like, but the process of the preparation, the work ethic, the character and the way we've approached it and gone about our business has been very solid. If you're just judging off of wins and losses, then we're not happy with it. But in terms of the effort that we're giving every day, the commitment level and the things that we need to do to give ourselves a chance to be a good football team as we go through this year, I am pleased with that."
Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio(on running back Maurice Jones-Drew):
"He's been very consistent for us. He's a great football player, and he's really attacked this season with a lot of energy, a lot of desire. He came back after a tough offseason and went up there (to Indianapolis) last year and was all banged up and tried to fight through it. After that game (he) was not with us for the rest of the year. (He) had a strong offseason fighting his way back, and he's got off to a great start for the first half of the year. I've said it before, he's a champion in the way he approaches things, and the heart he plays with. He's a special football player. I still recall way back when Tony (Dungy) and I were talking about him. We were at the Combine up there in Indy, and his explosiveness and his talent was real obvious. Tony (Dungy) talked about how much he liked him, and the fact that when we got him they were actually looking at him real hard as well, but I'm sure glad that we got him."
Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio(on defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis)
"We talk about both of them, that's for sure. Both are great players, obviously, Dwight is special, but Robert is special as well. They both do a tremendous job at disrupting offensive play, and they specialize in terrorizing the quarterback. I think they are probably the best pair of bookends in the league in terms of being disruptive pass rushers."
Jaguars linebacker Clint Session(on what stands out about his four years with the Colts):
"I had a great time in Indianapolis, I have to be honest. I had a great time (with the) organization, with all the players, all the guys are great guys, winning, we won a lot or they used to win a lot there. The city is a great city it embraces the team and all that, but I'm really happy. I've got to say that I'm a lot happier here though."
Jaguars linebacker Clint Session(on Sunday's game being an emotional one):
"Anybody who watches me knows (how I) play. My emotions always come out when I'm playing the game that I love, and all my emotion is going to come out there on Sunday. Dwight (Freeney), I appreciate him for including me into the equation and that makes me feel good. He's a great guy to look up to, as well as a great player. Like he said, we're all united as one, because we're playing the same sport. But there's definitely got to be a winner and a loser in a game."