Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne (7) chases Indianapolis Colts defensive back Darius Butler (20) after a tipped pass was intercepted by Butler during the final minutes of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, in Jacksonville, Fla. Indianapolis won the game 27-10.(AP Photo/John Raoux)
6-3 and in the playoff hunt. Is this really happening? Yes. Can a 27-10 victory appear closer than it was? Yes. The Colts, riddled with injuries, traveling for a Thursday night game, and concerned about a letdown, came in, hit first, and kept swinging despite slowing down on offense in the second half. Oh, and they forced three turnovers. Real, live turnovers. It was like Christmas, and the Jaguars were Santa Clause.
Indianapolis, on a short week, was coming off a close, emotional victory over Miami, during which a handful of key players were injured. Head Coach Chuck Pagano was able to attend the game in person for the first time since he was diagnosed with leukemia. He addressed the players before and after, delivering an inspiring speech in the locker room after the victory.
However, many feared that the team could face another letdown game, as they did after their win over the Packers. This matchup, against the 1-7 Jaguars – whose only victory was against the Colts – also had all the makings of a trap game. A young team on a win streak facing a division opponent with a bad record. Not this time. Not this team.
Indianapolis played Chuck Pagano style football as Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians called one of his better games. They ran and stopped the run, limiting Jacksonville to 37 rushing yards on 12 carries, a 3.1-yard average.
The Colts, on the other hand, had the statistics of a team that was trying to eat up the clock with a big lead: 138 hard-fought yards on the ground for 3.7 per carry, skewed by three kneel downs at the end. It paid off too, as Indy dominated in time of possession for the fourth straight game, and fourth straight win, holding the ball for 35:46 to just 24:12 for Jacksonville.
Turnovers??? Playing back-ups and cast-offs at cornerback, guys like Josh Gordy, Cassius Vaugh, and Darius Butler, the Colts gave up some yards and had their issues. However, they made up for a couple turnovers from the offense by forcing three of their own. This may have been the difference between another close, hard-fought win, and cruising to victory.
The game started great for the defense, as they forced two consecutive three-and-outs. When the Jaguars, who pushed the tempo with a no-huddle, were finally able to move the ball in the second quarter, they missed a field goal after Moise Fokou broke up a pass and Gabbert couldn’t convert on 3rd down to Cecil Shorts III. 3-0, Colts.
The Colts went right back to work, with a 62-yard drive ending in a spectacular 5-yard touchdown run by Andrew Luck on a bootleg. In recent weeks, we would have expected their opponent to answer right back. But tonight was not destined to be another close game.
Up 10-0, the Indy defense finally gave up a 3rd down conversion, sort of, by way of an offside penalty on Jerry Hughes. The Jaguars finally had something go their way. Gabbert then threw a 9-yard pass to Laurent Robinson on 1st down. Robinson fumbled. Moise Fokou ripped the ball away, and Darius Butler, who was everywhere, recovered at the 39. Robinson was ruled down by contact. Arians, who was 0-2 on challenges coming in, challenged and won. Colts ball. What could have quickly become a close game could begin to look more like the blowout it should be.
Luck and the offense picked up where they left off, blazing down the field, thanks in part to a 44-yard bomb to Donnie Avery, and capping off their drive with a quarterback sneak for a touchdown. The Colts took a commanding lead over the reeling Jaguars, and Andrew Luck (5) passed Peyton Manning (4) for most rushing touchdowns in a season by a Colts quarterback. 17-0, Colts
After another three-and-out by the Jaguars and an interception by Andrew Luck, the Jaguars managed a field goal before halftime. 17-3, Colts
While the offense slowed down again in the second half, a disturbing trend all season, the defense, and, yes, Darius Butler, stepped up again. After forcing a Colts punt (an excellent short punt to the 4-yard line by Pat McAfee, recovered by Sergio Brown) on their first drive of the half, the Jaguars had another opportunity to narrow the gap, albeit in terrible field position.
The Colts would have none of it, as Darius Butler jumped a hook route that the Jaguars had been running all night and snagged a pick six from Gabbert. Again, turnovers kept the Jaguars out of the game, allowing the Colts to cruise through the second half.
Indianapolis forced two straight punts before a fumble by Luck gave Jacksonville one more glimmer of hope in the 4th quarter. After taking a sack from Antoine Bethea on a scramble to the outside, Gabbert left the game with an injury. Chad Henne stepped in and marched the Jaguars downfield for a touchdown. 24-10, Colts.
The Colts got the ball back with 9:16 left and proceeded with a nice clock-eating field goal drive to finish off the Jags, 27-10. When Henne got the ball back with 3:23 remaining, there wasn’t much hope left for Jacksonville. On 4th and 1 at the Indy 35, Henne’s pass was batted up in the air by Cory Redding, then by Freeney, and Freeney again, before it was picked off and returned 51 yards by, guess who, Darius Butler. Icing on the Cake. The Offense came out and took the obligatory kneel downs to run out the clock.
Ah, what a beautiful sight the victory formation is. Andrew Luck finished the game 18/26 (4 drops by the receivers in the 1st half, or it would’ve looked even better) for 227 yards, one interception at the end of the 2nd quarter, an 80.1 rating, and those two rushing touchdowns. Vick Ballard ran for 48 yards on 12 carries as the offense managed a solid 138 rushing yards. Donnie Avery was more efficient than usual, catching 4 passes for 65 yards on 6 targets (He came in with a 50% catch rate), and Reggie Wayne led the Colts receivers with 8 receptions for 96 yards.
The defense notched three turnovers, all involving Darius butler, who finished with 4 tackles, 2 passes defended, 2 interceptions, a touchdown, and a fumble recovery. They also had 4 sacks – 3 from the defensive backs, with Josh Gordy, Antoine Bethea, and Tom Zbikowski all taking down the quarterback along with Outside Linebacker Jerry Hughes.
Tonight, the Colts made an opponent one-dimensional. They ran well (a 4.1 yard average without Luck’s kneel downs), and they got big plays on defense. The letdown game, the trap game was instead a comfortable, convincing victory for a young team fighting for their coach, and possibly, for the playoffs. As Chuck Pagano would say, Let’s Hunt.