INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars’ 31-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in a 2023 Week 1 game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., Sunday
1. Scraaaaamble – and six. The Jaguars and quarterback Trevor Lawrence quickly ensured that wide receiver Calvin Ridley mattered significantly in his first game with the team – and his first game in nearly two years. After the Jaguars went three-and-out on their first possession, Lawrence passed four times to Ridley on a nine-play, 61-yardd drive that ended with the Jaguars' first touchdown. Ridley, acquired in a trade last November from the Atlanta Falcons, gave the Jaguars a first down with a 24-yard reception to the Colts 25. Lawrence on third-and-seven from the Colts nine rolled right, then scrambled left. He found Ridley wide open on that side of the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Jaguars lead with 5:18 remaining in the first quarter. "I'm so happy we got the game," said Ridley, who caught eight passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. "I'm a win-first type of player. I want to play good, but I want to win the game, so I feel good. It was great. Obviously, we have to get way better, but it was fun, and we got the W."
2. Biiiiiig stops. The Colts gained momentum late in the first quarter into the second. First, rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson's two-yard quarterback draw tied the score 7-7 on the first play of the second quarter. Colts' cornerback Tony Brown then returned an interception that bounced off rookie running back Tank Bigsby's hands 34 yards to the Jaguars 25. Jaguars' defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi stopped a run by Richardson up the middle on fourth-and-one from the Jaguars 16 to end that threat. Defensive lineman Adam Gotsis knocked a pass from Richardson down on fourth-and-four from the Jaguars 42 to end the ensuing series and keep the score tied 7-7.
"If it was all about the offense, we would've been in trouble today," Lawrence said. "We pick each other up. We feed off one another. That's what makes teams great, and we have to continue to do that. There is going to be a week where we have to pick our defense up. This week they got some huge stops for us that we really needed. They played great. Hats off to them."
3. Wow. A spectacular throw and catch from Lawrence to wide receiver Zay Jones pushed the Jaguars into the lead late in the second quarter. On the series after Gotsis' pass defense, the Jaguars drove 57 yards using seven plays. One of those plays was an impressive catch and run by Ridley for a 29-yard gain to the Colts 16. On second-and-12, Lawrence threw a long pass to the right side of the end zone. Jones caught the pass just inside the sideline and got his knee down in bounds for an 18-yard touchdown and a 14-7 Jaguars lead with 4:56 remaining in the second quarter.
4. Oof. The early third quarter went heavy against the Jaguars. They first went three and out after the second-half kickoff, with the Colts gaining possession at their 37 after the punt. The Jaguars' defense had a chance to get off the field after a penalty gave the Colts first-and-25 at the Jaguars 35. After a four-yard loss, Richardson threw short to wide receiver Michael Pittman. The veteran raced through the edge of the Jaguars' defense for a 39-yard touchdown and to tie the score 14-14 with 11:25 remaining in the third quarter.
5. Oof II. The Colts took the lead late in the third quarter on one of the stranger plays in recent Jaguars memory. First, Colts All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner sacked Lawrence to force a fumble that Bigsby recovered. Linebacker Zaire Franklin stripped Bigsby from behind at the Jaguars 35. Buckner then recovered that fumble and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown and a 21-17 Colts lead with 2:27 remaining in the third quarter. "It's interesting because if ask every offensive player right now, they'll tell you exactly what we talk about on Thursdays: getting on every loose ball," Pederson said. "For some reason, we all kind of froze. It's obviously a learning moment for Tank, for the offense, for the guys." Lawrence called it "kind of a weird play," with Bigsby and other players unsure if Lawrence had fumbled or thrown incomplete. "That's a crazy play and one to learn from," he said. "That would've been a tough play for anyone really. You recover it and then you end up getting it punched out. You learn from it, you move on."
5a. Powering in. The Jaguars struggled to run early Sunday. They made up for it late, with Bigsby setting the tone with a power run on second-and-four from the Colts five in the fourth quarter. Bigsby appeared stopped before pushing the pile five yards for a first down at the one. He then scored easily through a huge hole up the middle on the ensuing play. After cornerback Tyson Campbell intercepted Richardson on the ensuing series, running back Travis Etienne Jr. tested the right side of the line before running around the left for a game-clinching 26-yard touchdown run that made it 31-21 with 4:08 remaining. "You have to continue to stick with that," Pederson said of the run offense. "It's [offensive line coach] Phil Rauscher, [offensive coordinator] Press [Taylor] and the offensive staff trusting in that and sticking to our guys as far as the run game goes."