JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars' 26-11 victory over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday in a 2021 Week 18 game at TIAA Bank Field
1. Key conversions. The Jaguars took a 7-0 on the game's first series, with rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence completing eight of eight passes for 83 yards and capping the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to veteran wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. It was one of the Jaguars' best drives of the season, marked by Lawrence's clutch performance on key plays. He converted three third downs into first downs with completions – including a 17-yard completion to veteran wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. to convert 3rd-and-13 from the Jaguars 22 early in the drive. Lawrence later on the drive converted 3rd-and-10 from the Jaguars 39 with a 12-yard pass to Jones and 3rd-and-1 from the Colts 24 with a 15-yard pass to wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. The drive marked the first time since a Week 2 loss to the Denver Broncos that the Jaguars took a 7-0 lead on the game's first possession. "We did a good job of getting off to a good start," Jaguars Interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell said. "One of the things that we've done early in the year was there was a lot of 10-0, 17-0, getting behind. So, we were able to stay in the game, a good mix and run and pass."
2. Big stop(s). The Jaguars maintained their lead into the second quarter – doing so in part because of big defensive plays in big situations on consecutive drives. First, Jaguars defensive tackle Adam Gotsis stopped a Colts drive by stopping running back Jonathan Taylor – the NFL's leading rusher – for a one-yard gain on a run up the middle on 4th-and-2 from the Jaguars 42. The Colts drove again on their next series, with quarterback Carson Wentz throwing deep down the middle to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton for a 33-yard gain on 3rd-and-7 from the Colts 23. The drive reached the Jaguars 13, but defensive end Josh Allen sacked Wentz for a 10-yard loss on 3rd-and-3 from there – a sack that forced the Colts to settle for a 41-yard field goal by Michael Badgley that made it 7-3. "We're ending on a high note," Jaguars defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot said. "It's something to look forward to in the offseason, just thinking back, 'Okay, we ended on a high note, we ended on a W, let's just build onto that and let's just keep it going.'''
3. Just for kicks. The Jaguars pushed the lead to 13-3 before halftime, with the positive there being two extended scoring drives and the concern being that the lead could have been much bigger. The Jaguars drove 71 yards on 11 plays to take a 10-3 lead on a 22-yard field goal by kicker Matthew Wright with 3:06 remaining in the half – with Lawrence throwing incomplete to Jones on 3rd-and-2 from the Colts 4. The Jaguars drove again in the final two minutes, moving 71 yards on 11 plays and taking a ten-point halftime lead on a 20-yard field goal by Wright on the final play of the half. Wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. dropped what might have been a two-yard touchdown pass on the play before Wright's field goal.
4. Turnover time. The Jaguars, after struggling all season to create turnovers, forced one early in the third quarter Sunday that gave them a chance to essentially break the game open. They failed to do so, but linebacker Damien Wilson's blitz/sack/forced fumble was the sort of play the Jaguars' defense has been pushing to make all season. Defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton recovered for the Jaguars at the Colts 23, marking the Jaguars' eighth takeaway of the season – the fewest in the NFL this season. The Jaguars gained just two yards on three plays, settling again for a field goal by Wright – this one for 39 yards and a 16-3 Jaguars lead with 11:32 remaining in the third quarter. A second takeaway later in the quarter – an interception by Wilson – gave the Jaguars a first down at the Colts 45 and set up what was essentially the game-clinching touchdown.
5. Unreal. A couple of remarkable plays clinched the victory for the Jaguars – and essentially knocked Indianapolis from the postseason. The first was Wilson's interception, which came when the veteran linebacker made a nice break on a pass from Wentz and returned it one yard to the Colts 45. The Jaguars drove from there and faced 3rd-and-goal at the three. Lawrence retrieved a high, hard snap and rolled to his right – avoiding pressure from blitzing safety Khari Willis. He threw a perfect pass into the rear of the end zone, with Jones reaching high and getting both feet in bounds for a touchdown and a 23-3 lead with 3:08 remaining in the third quarter. "Ball snapped over his head, they got pressure coming off the edge, just stayed calm," Bevell said. "Got the ball, rolled out, threw a nice ball to Marv, Marv gets his feet in. Just kind of shows hopefully what the future can hold for Trevor."