INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts wrapped up the 2020 regular season on Sunday by defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars 28-14 in their Week 17 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium, improving their record to 11-5.
Thanks to the Buffalo Bills' win earlier in the day over the Miami Dolphins, the Colts knew heading into their 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff that their matchup against the Jaguars was a win-and-you're-in scenario to punch their ticket to the postseason. Head coach Frank Reich's team just needed to take care of its own business, which is exactly what ended up happening, and now the Colts, the No. 7 seed in the AFC, will travel to take on the No. 2-seed Bills next Saturday in the Wild Card Round.
"Big win. Obviously, (an) excited locker room, 11-win season. That's a great accomplishment. That's not easy to do. Get a playoff berth, really excited about that," Reich said. "You get to 11 wins and you get into playoffs. Great opportunity, this is what we wanted. This was the first step — the first goal and the first step was to get in and proud of the guys the way they responded and the way we played today."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's win over the Jaguars:
» PLAYOFF BOUND: Before jumping into the ins and outs of the Jaguars game itself, the most important outcome is the Colts making the postseason for the second time in three seasons under Reich. Indy came into Sunday on the outside looking in when it came to the AFC playoff picture, needing a win over the Jaguars, coupled with a loss by one of four teams — the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns or Baltimore Ravens for a Wild Card spot, or the Tennessee Titans for the AFC South title — to sneak back in at the last minute. In the end, the Colts got the help they needed with a Dolphins blowout loss to the Bills, and then took care of their business against the Jaguars to earn the No. 7 seed. The victory also gave the Colts their most regular season wins since their 11-win campaign in 2014. "We just had to lock in. We just knew we had to handle our business," said defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who had two sacks on Sunday. "Mr. (Jim) Irsay told us earlier in the week, 'Effort is 100 percent on us. The outcome is on God.' 100 percent on God, and everything worked out the way it should. We handled our business today. We're in the playoffs, baby."
» TAYLOR'S MASTERPIECE: After a decorated career at Wisconsin, the Colts selected running back Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft knowing he was capable of taking over games and playing like one of the top backs in football. And after an up-and-down start to his rookie season, Taylor has absolutely been on fire the last few weeks, a point no more evident than on Sunday, when he had one of the best rushing performances not only in Colts history, but in NFL history. Taylor had 30 carries for a single-game franchise-high 253 yards and two touchdowns; his 253 yards tied for the second most by a rookie in a single NFL game and are the ninth-most by any player in a single game in league history. Taylor's 45-yard touchdown run with 3:35 left in the fourth quarter sealed the game — and a playoff appearance — for the Colts, and he finished the regular season third in the NFL, and first among all rookies, with 1,169 rushing yards, as well as 11 rushing touchdowns, tying Marshall Faulk and Curtis Dickey for the most in franchise history by a rookie. "It just felt like he was running great and kind of had an idea coming in that we were going to do that, really with the idea of making sure – this is such a big game, an important game and he has been in beast mode, as we've said, so he's earned that right," Reich said of Taylor. "He certainly looked great today."
» WEATHER THE STORM: The Colts displayed a somewhat-familiar pattern in Sunday's game — and something they hope they can get ironed out by the time this Saturday's Wild Card Round matchup against the Bills gets underway. Indy had yet another fast start against the Jaguars, jumping out to a 17-0 lead by early into the second quarter, and extending that lead to 20-0 with 2:41 to go in the second half. But then the Jaguars get some momentum heading into halftime with their first touchdown of the game, cutting the lead to 20-7, and then the Colts' offense suddenly couldn't find much consistency throughout much of the second half, while the Indy defense seemed at times to be hanging on. The Jaguars cut the Colts' lead to 20-14 at the 6:32 mark of the third quarter and actually had several drives down the stretch where they could've taken the lead, but ultimately, Indy found the plays it needed in the final period on both sides of the ball, and Taylor's 45-yard touchdown run up the gut, and the two-point conversion pass from Philip Rivers to T.Y. Hilton that followed, finally put the game out of reach. Sunday's game had a similar pattern to the previous week's matchup on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which Indy jumped out to a 24-7 lead early into the third quarter before Pittsburgh came storming back with 21 unanswered points, handing the Colts a 28-24 loss. But this time, Reich's crew figured out how to get the job done and close the door on the Jaguars. "At this next level, there is no room for some of the inconsistencies that we've seen, even in the last two weeks like you're suggesting, where we come out and are hot in the first half and then the inconsistency of the second half," Reich said. "We know that it has to be addressed and we have to be better going on the road playing playoff football against really good teams. It's still a 60-minute game though and there is something to be said – you can come out and get on fire and then you stumble a little bit. You don't want to do that; you don't plan to do that. You plan on scoring every time you touch it; you plan on stopping them every time they touch it. But there is something to be said – like today, at the end of the day we scored 28 points. Am I happy with that? No, not really, I was hoping we'd score a lot more but usually that's enough to win a ballgame. We have to continue to fight to get more consistent, but overall, we have to the players and coaches to do that."
» GETTING AFTER THE PASSER: The Colts know they'll need consistent pressure on the quarterback if they want to get to where they want to go in the postseason. Indy took a positive step forward in that direction on Sunday, as they logged a season-best six sacks, as several players got in on the fun. Buckner had his two sacks to get to 9.5 on the season, the most by a defensive tackle in a single season in franchise history. Darius Leonard had a sack. Kenny Moore II had a sack. Justin Houston and Grover Stewart split one. But perhaps the most promising aspect of the pass rush on Sunday came from defensive end Kemoko Turay, who suffered a brutal, season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 of the 2019 season, entered the 2020 season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, was activated past midseason this year and has played sparingly since. Against the Jaguars, however, Turay was a constant nuisance up front, as he logged his first sack of the season to go along with three quarterback hits on 15 defensive snaps. Talk about efficient. The Colts will certainly need that this Saturday against an MVP candidate in Josh Allen, who not only has one of the best throwing arms in the game, but is also more than capable of making things happen with his legs.
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who hit two field goals and two extra points on Sunday, passed Raul Allegre (30) for the most field goals made by a rookie in franchise history.
— Quarterback Philip Rivers' six-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton in the first quarter gave him sole possession of fifth place in NFL history in touchdown passes, as he officially moved past Dan Marino (420). Rivers also passed Eli Manning (8,119) for the sixth-most passes attempted in NFL history.
Click here to check out more stats and notes from Sunday's victory over the Jaguars, courtesy of Colts Communications.
Colts fans can catch the re-air of Sunday's Week 17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on WTTV4.2 this Wednesday at 8pm presented by POWERHOME SOLAR.
See all the action on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in their Week 17 regular season finale.