INDIANAPOLIS—Eugene Monroe will likely remember his professional football debut for the spin move Dwight Freeney used to disrupt quarterback David Garrard and the Jaguars passing game. Freeney was never more effective or dramatic as he was in the Jaguars' final possession.
The Colts pressured Garrard into three consecutive incompletions to preserve a 14-12 victory in Sunday's season-opener at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was a fitting conclusion to a game Freeney dominated with a sack, two hurries, a pass-defensed, a tackle for a loss and an otherwise overall effort that required the Jaguars to assign two blockers to Freeney.
"I thought they did a great job," Garrard said of his rookie tackles, Monroe and Eben Britton. "The first time they were playing was the highest possible challenge. I feel good going forward."
The Jaguars came within a two-point conversion of tying the game, and needed only to gain 30 yards in their final possession to give Josh Scobee a chance to attempt a makeable, game-winning field goal. That's when Freeney and the Colts' pass-rush put the hammer down.
"They were doing a good job of timing up my snap count," said Garrard, who was in a hurry-up offense and, therefore, unable to change his cadence. "They're very good at it."
It was a season-opener for a Jaguars team that started four rookies and put up a better fight than most expected. Coach Jack Del Rio, however, was not satisfied to have played the Colts close.
"We did make plays at the end to give ourselves an opportunity. That's a good thing. We didn't make enough plays earlier," Del Rio said. "We expected to win this game."
Rookie cornerback Derek Cox killed the Colts' first drive, which carried to the Jaguars four-yard line, with an interception in the end zone. Cox then killed the Colts' second drive by recovering a fumble in Jaguars territory.
"He played very well," Del Rio said of Cox, who was targeted by Manning, resulting in 10 receptions for 162 yards and a 35-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Reggie Wayne,
Del Rio singled out a 39-yard reception by Wayne on which Cox was in position to make the interception. "The ball should've been intercepted. He mistimed it," Del Rio said of Cox.
"There were some plays I left out there. I'll take that from the experience," Cox said.
The Jaguars had a chance to tie the game with 11:07 to play, following a seven-yard touchdown run by Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars ran Jones-Drew in the "Wildcat" formation in the two-point conversion attempt, but Jones-Drew was stopped.
Jim Caldwell, in his debut as Colts head coach, made a curious decision to go for the first down on fourth-and-one at the Jaguars 35-yard line with 2:06 to play. Rookie running back Donald Brown was stopped for no gain, leaving the Jaguars with their last-ditch chance to win the game.
Defensive end Reggie Hayward was injured on the fourth-down stop. It's feared Hayward sustained a serious leg injury.
Second-year defensive end Derrick Harvey spent much of the second half on the sideline, as defensive tackle John Henderson was moved to end. Asked about Harvey's lack of playing time in the second half, Del Rio said: "There was no reason he couldn't play. That's a question I'll have to ask the staff. There was no reason he shouldn't have been in the game."
The Jaguars will attempt to score their first win of the season in their home opener this Sunday against the defending NFC-champion Arizona Cardinals.
"I'm ready to get to work tomorrow," Monroe said.