A KEY TO SUCCESS, JACKSONVILLE NOT ONE-DIMENSIONAL AND COLTS OFFENSIVE LINE RECOGNIZED
"ALWAYS A CHALLENGE"Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew will draw a great deal of attention from Colts defenders during this Sunday's matchup at 1 p.m. in Lucas Oil Stadium.
And for good reason.
The fifth-year back leads the NFL in rushing attempts (284), in fourth-quarter rushing yards (387) and is tied for first in the league with seven games of 100 yards or more.
Jones-Drew has strung together six consecutive games of 100-plus yards, coupled with a 128-yard average in those contests coming into Sunday's matchup.
But what makes him so elusive to bring down?
"He is always a challenge for us," All-Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "He always has been for everybody, to be honest. He has a really low center of gravity, and it is really hard to get him down. It is hard to find him sometimes."
In the first meeting between the teams this season, the Colts defense held Jones-Drew to 105 yards on 26 carries.
Even though Jones-Drew broke the 100-yard mark in that game, his longest rush was for 14 yards and only one other exceeded 10 yards.
According to Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell, not allowing Jones-Drew to break big runs is one key to Indianapolis' success against the run this week.
"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. What we have to do is make certain that we contain it enough that they don't just chew up ground on us and keep possessions away from us and then score on top of it.
"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."
For many years, the Colts have focused on stopping the Jaguars' rushing attack led by Jones-Drew, and although he has the second-most rushing yards in the NFL with 1,278 through 13 games, quarterback David Garrard has emerged this season as a focal point within the Jaguars offense.
"He can get outside the pocket and make some things happen in open space," Caldwell said. "If you're covering a lot of man-to-man, and you turn your back on him, he's going to take off and run. Not only that, he can break contain, get out on the move, keep his eyes downfield and create big plays that way also."
Garrard has done well on the ground this year, accumulating 232 yards and four touchdowns, but where he has been even more effective this season is in the passing game, throwing for 2,141 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"He's tough," Freeney said. "I think he's underrated as a quarterback. He has a lot of ability. He throws the ball very well. He's a smart quarterback. He's a load to bring down. He has really strong legs, so we'll have to really wrap him up."
Garrard is completing 65.5 percent of his passes this season, the best completion percentage of his career as a starter, and has a passer rating of 93.2. Last week, Garrard tied Mark Brunell's single-season franchise record for the most touchdown passes with 20.
"They're not one-dimensional by any stretch of the imagination," Caldwell said. "They can throw the ball, and you can see by his (Garrard) numbers that he's throwing the ball pretty well. He's a two-dimensional guy, meaning that he can throw the ball, but he also can hurt you with his feet as well."
OFFENSIVE LINE CITED
The Colts offensive line recently received recognition in the latest 'New York Life Protection Index,' an index provided by STATS, Inc. measuring an offensive line's ability in pass protection. The Colts rank first among NFL teams in 2010 with a 90.6 rating, nearly 10 points better than second-place New Orleans (81.4), while only eight teams had a rating higher than 70. The index is comprised of a formula combining statistics such as the length of a team's pass attempts, penalties by offensive linemen and quarterback sacks, hurries and knockdowns.
The Colts rank second in the NFL in sacks allowed this season with 14. The line has allowed a sack every 41.6 attempts, which would rank as the third-best ratio of sacks to pass attempts in club history.