Jack Del Rio praised the Indianapolis Colts and offered Colts head coach Tony Dungy some advice: "I'd play them all, especially for this next game. For Seattle, he can rest them all," Del Rio told reporters at Monday afternoon's press conference.
The 13-0 Colts are three wins away from an undefeated regular season and their opponent this week is San Diego, which just happens to be one of three teams competing with the Jaguars in the AFC wild-card race. Gee, it sure would nice if the Colts did the Jaguars a favor and knocked off the Chargers, huh?
"If the Colts play their best game, it's going to be tough for anyone to beat them," Del Rio said when asked if the Jaguars could beat the Colts on a day when both teams played their best football.
It was high praise, indeed, for the Jaguars' AFC South rival. That's how impressive the Colts were in whipping the Jaguars, 26-18, at Alltel Stadium on Sunday. Don't be misled by the final score. It was 26-3 midway through the fourth quarter.
"We have to put it behind us, dust ourselves off and go to the next game. It doesn't really matter. We would've loved to have won, but that opportunity was going to be there win or lose," Del Rio said of the Jaguars' pursuit of making it into the playoffs for the first time in six years.
What happened Sunday afternoon was all about disappointment. What happened Sunday evening, however, helped ease the Jaguars' pain. Losses by San Diego and Kansas City allowed the Jaguars to maintain their one-game lead in the wild-card race. It made dealing with Monday morning's problems a little less arduous.
First, there was the matter of three personal fouls in one second-quarter Colts drive. Del Rio initiated the flurry of fouls with an overly aggressive "coach's challenge." Mike Peterson and John Henderson then followed with "unnecessary roughness" penalties that immediately raised self-control concerns.
"Overall, the whole composure question that was posed yesterday and well documented today, I think I'd like to just say this: Obviously, it was a mistake on my part to draw a flag. I don't want to ever have that happen and I don't expect that to ever happen again, and as a football team we want to play hard and play physical but always be within the rules. We'll look to make sure we understand exactly where we slipped up there and make those corrections and go forward," Del Rio said in his opening remarks at Monday's press conference.
Then there's the play of his secondary, which was torched for 324 yards and two touchdowns by Peyton Manning, a week after allowing 226 yards and two touchdowns to rookie Charlie Frye and two weeks after surrendering 315 yards and two touchdowns to Kurt Warner. That's 865 yards and six touchdowns in the last three games for a secondary that began that stretch as the league's number one pass-defense. Today, the Jaguars are number eight in the league.
"Our secondary was excellent in the first game (against the Colts in week two). We got exposed yesterday. That's an area at which we'll have to get better," Del Rio said.
There are also concerns for a running game that produced only 74 yards and for three lost fumbles, but they were balanced by positives such as the continued outstanding play of offensive tackle Khalif Barnes, who shut out star defensive end Dwight Freeney on the stats sheet; no tackles, no sacks, nothing. Freeney's name didn't even appear.
"I don't know if it's the (playing) surface as much as it is the noise in that dome," Del Rio said when asked if Freeney is a different player outdoors than he is inside the RCA Dome. Freeney has only two sacks on the road this year; one in San Francisco and one in Houston.
Del Rio explained a couple of his decisions in Sunday's game, such as his decision to punt on fourth-and-one at the Colts' 43-yard line in the Jaguars' first offensive possession, and his decision not to attempt an onside kick with 1:54 to play in the game.
"I really thought that early in the game I did not want to do things to give them a short field. I wanted to pin them down. A little later in the game, that might've been worth a shot, but on the first drive of the game it was an easy call," Del Rio said of the fourth-and-one play.
About the final kickoff: "It was a challenge on our defense. (Manning) made a play on third-and-long," Del Rio said.
Colts players accused the Jaguars of dirty play, just as the Titans had accused the Colts of the same a week earlier. In responding to questions about the Colts' accusations, Del Rio said: "It sounds like what the Colts were hearing last week. When I look at the tape, I don't have a problem with the way we play football."
The pass-defense, however, would seem to be a problem.