The Jaguars talked of getting one more shot at the Colts, and it's understandable that a division rival would refuse to concede victory to the team it has spent all season pursuing, but if this game was all about respect, then the Colts deserve some. What we saw on Sunday afternoon, ladies and gentleman, was an offensive machine at work.
They were coming into a hostile environment. They were facing a team on a little winning streak of its own. The Colts were ripe, you might say, and it had become the trendy thing in media circles this week to pick against them.
Well, Tony Dungy's team answered the challenge rather quickly, didn't they? They went 89 yards in their first 11 easy plays, which resulted in an immediate and perceptible sag in Alltel Stadium's charged atmosphere.
They announced themselves. We are the Colts, they said. This is what we do.
It was the most important drive of the game because it frustrated the hell-bent Jaguars. The Jaguars were ready to play smash-mouth but they got finesse; swing passes and delays and draws and all of the little tricks of the trade that the Colts execute as no other team in the league can.
"We gave them everything," Jaguars middle linebacker Mike Peterson said. "The first drive, it was all little wrinkles."
Oh, those little wrinkles. They'll drive you nuts. Then, just when you're starting to get the hang of all those little wrinkles, Peyton Manning hits you deep.
That was the kill shot. Marvin Harrison gave Rashean Mathis a little fake to the outside, Mathis bit hard, then Harrison turned it straight up the field. Manning's pass hit his favorite receiver in stride for a 65-yard touchdown that put the Colts up 14-3.
It was still early in the second quarter, but you could feel the outcome in the air. They made it look too easy. They did it too quickly; almost as though they could do it any time they wanted. That's how the Colts demoralize their opponents. Their suddenness and efficiency make opponents feel inferior, almost helpless.
They've now done it 13 times this year, and they're a good bet to do it three more times, if they so decide. That's the ultimate arrogance. We must now wait for the Colts to decide whether or not an undefeated season is worthy of their effort.
Peterson hopes the Jaguars will get one more shot to hang a loss on the Colts. Peterson's plan is for the Jaguars to win in the wild-card round of the playoffs, then go to Indianapolis in the divisional round and hang an "L" on his former team.
"We'll probably get that other shot. If we take care of our business, we'll get another shot," Peterson said. "They can be beaten. They made plays when they had a chance and we didn't. We can beat them."
Yeah, that all sounds nice and there's no reason to doubt Peterson's belief, but after having observed the clinic the Colts put on at Alltel Stadium, this reporter has to acknowledge the special quality of that performance. They have been the most explosive offense in football for several years now. They are good, too good to be beaten on this day; so far, on any day.
If Sunday's game was all about respect, then the Colts have mine.