INDIANAPOLIS — The last time the Indianapolis Colts played host to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the visitors embarrassed the hosts, sacking quarterback Jacoby Brissett 10 times and shutting out the Colts, 27-0.
This time around, that wasn’t happening.
In the week leading up to the game, Colts players and coaches alike seemed to not give in to last year’s matchup as bulletin board material. Those who were a part of the team and played in that game knew what needed to be done on Sunday.
The Colts’ protection accepted the challenge, and this time the Jaguars flew home from Indianapolis having not sacked quarterback Andrew Luck once in Indy's 29-26 victory.
“Yeah, it’s great. The line is doing a heck of a job. They’re largely responsible for anything positive in this offense,” Luck told reporters after the game.
“They’re doing a great job. Now it’s also tight ends, running backs, the meetings we do during the week and the extra work everybody’s putting in — the wideouts running crisp routes and knowing when they’re hot and knowing they’ve got to take a peek knowing when they can push their route. It is a group effort, but we’ve got to improve. We’ve got to keep getting better.”
For those of you counting at home, that’s now four games (and almost five), 57 offensive possessions, two hours and 48 minutes of offensive gameplay, and 187 dropbacks since the Luck last was sacked — which came during the Colts’ first drive Week 5 against the New England Patriots, to be exact.
Coming into Sunday’s game, the Jaguars had 19 sacks on the season, and most of their weapons up front from last season's "Sacksonville" team that had 55 total sacks were back. “This is definitely going to be the toughest test of the year,” Reich told reporters leading up to the game.
“Yeah, I think that’s four games in a row. I can’t say enough about that,” Reich said after Sunday's game. “I mean, Andrew just looks really comfortable and confident in the pocket. It gives us a lot of confidence as we’re calling it against a front like this, so we’ve just got to keep that rolling. (We’ve) got to keep on executing. Never take it for granted.”
This is now the fourth time since sacks became an official state in 1982 that the Colts have had four consecutive games without allowing up a sack, and their first such streak since 2009. The Colts are currently tied for the fifth-longest sackless streak in NFL history since 1982, according to Zak Keefer of The Indianapolis Star.
For Luck individually, it’s the longest a single quarterback has gone without being sacked since Eli Manning of the New York Giants had a five-game streak in 2010, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
For those responsible up front, the solid protection is the result of hours and hours of prep work done by both coaches and players in the days leading up to the game.
“We're just doing what we're expected to do, and just doing the same thing regardless every week,” right guard Mark Glowinski said. “We come in and we go over everything the defense is gonna bring us. We might go back as far as we can, (and find) something here or there even from two or three years ago — something that might've got somebody — and just dialing in.
“The coaching staff is incredible with how many cut-ups they can put together for us so that when we're up on the field we can just visualize and understand potentially what's gonna happen and just be dialed in."
Colts center Ryan Kelly, who works tirelessly with Luck and the coaches on pass protection during the week, gives much of the credit to the staff, as well.
“It’s a credit to everybody. At the end of the day, those blitz meetings that we go through, I think Frank and Nick (Sirianni) have talked about those a few times, Wednesday and Thursday. I can’t tell you how much it helps Andrew and I when we go out there on third down," Kelly said. "They like to bring exotic stuff and get in crazy eight formations. It’s super easy to identify once we’ve done it all day Wednesday, all day Thursday, and all day Friday. Blitz pickup has been huge, and everybody’s been on the same page. At the end of the day, Andrew has done a great job. There has been a few pressures here and there and he’s gotten out of the pocket and guys are getting open downfield which makes our job a hell of a lot easier.”
The Colts now shift their focus to another excellent defensive front when they play host to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Tennessee has 23 sacks on the season, led by 4.5 from linebacker Jayon Brown.