INDIANAPOLIS – The circumstances were eerily similar.
The difference on Sunday in Indianapolis compared to the regular-season opener in Minneapolis is on this day, when the Jaguars pulled off an improbable, heartstopping comeback they made the plays in the final moments and won the game.
Blaine Gabbert threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts with 45 seconds remaining, and when the defense held on the ensuing series, the Jaguars clinched their first victory of the 2012 regular season, 22-17, over the Indianapolis Colts in front of 63,536 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"That was a typical NFL finish, up and down, up and down and up and down emotionally," Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said afterward.
"This staff is extremely proud of our football team."
The victory was the first for the Jaguars under Mularkey and the first as a franchise with Shad Khan as owner. Mularkey afterward presented the game ball to Khan, who purchased the team from Wayne Weaver in early January.
"A great moment," Gabbert called the presentation.
Before Gabbert and Shorts hooked up late, most of the great moments for the Jaguars on the field Sunday came from running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2011 NFL rushing champion, rushed for 177 yards on 28 carries, and his 59-yard touchdown early in the third quarter pulled the Jaguars to within four points, 14-10.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who completed 22 of 46 passes for 313 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, threw both of his touchdowns in the first half. The first was for 40 yards to T.Y. Hilton and gave the Colts a 7-point lead after Josh Scobee had given the Jaguars an early 3-0 lead with a 44-yard field goal.
The Colts took more momentum and an 11-point lead when Luck threw four yards to Mewelde Moore with 37 seconds remaining in the half.
The Jaguars dominated the second half, with Jones-Drew's 59-yarder setting the tone on their first play of the half. The play is called 32 Power. It's Jones-Drew's favorite play and he calls it the bread-and-butter of the running game.
The Jaguars took a 16-14 lead with field goals of 47 and 26 yards later in the half by Scobee, and Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri connected from 36 yards with 56 seconds remaining to give Indianapolis a 17-16 lead.
Gabbert told the offense entering the huddle it would score, and seconds later, Shorts caught Gabbert's pass over the middle and spilt the defense. With the clock ticking and the Jaguars out of timeouts, Shorts – who two weeks ago caught a 39-yard go-ahead touchdown from Gabbert against Minnesota – made it to the 2-yard line, then dove into the end zone as he was tackled for his second late-game, memorable play in three games.
Whereas in Minnesota the Jaguars defense allowed a tying field goal that eventually led to a Vikings victory in overtime, this time, the defense held.
Luck led a late drive to the Jaguars 26, and on the game's final play, Aaron Ross knocked away a pass intended for wide receiver Reggie Wayne and a Jaguars team that needed a victory has it in dramatic fashion.
"Any time you can win a game on the road, in the division, in a tough place to play, it's huge," Gabbert said.
"This was important for them," Mularkey said. "They (the players) busted their tail for three games. They played hard for three games and finally got rewarded for it. We prefer not to end it that way , but we now know we can if we have to."