INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This was weird, wacky and really difficult.
In other words, it was NFL Week 1.
The Jaguars grinded for a half, trailed after a bizarre third quarter then rallied in the fourth quarter with touchdowns by running backs Tank Bigsby and Travis Etienne Jr. for a 31-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the 2023 regular-season opener Sunday in front of 65,749 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"It's huge," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said following the defending AFC South Champions' first victory in Indianapolis since 2017 and their second in 11 seasons. "We haven't done so well down here."
Pederson added after the AFC South victory, "The guys battled for four quarters. They played hard, they played tough. It was that type of football game. I've been around this league a long time to know you go on the road, division opponent…
"It's going to be a dogfight. It's going to be a battle."
Bigsby’s touchdown came with 5:14 remaining through a wide hole up the middle. He had pushed the line for five yards on the previous play to set up first-and goal from the one.
Cornerback Tyson Campbell intercepted Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson on the ensuing series and Etienne Jr's 26-yard touchdown run pushed the lead to the final margin.
"It feels good to win," Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "It feels good, especially in this stadium. You haven't had a ton of success over here lately, so that feels good. That's a good team."
Added Pederson, "My hat's off to our guys in the locker room for sticking it out for four quarters and pulling this one out."
Lawrence completed 24 of 32 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, with wide receiver Calvin Ridley – playing in his first game for the Jaguars after being acquired from the Atlanta Falcons in a trade last November – catching eight passes for 101 yards and one touchdown.
"We could have, should have scored more points," Ridley said. "We should have been in better situations and that comes with that was obviously our first game. We're still getting better. We're still learning each other obviously, but I like where we're at."
Lawrence's early touchdown pass to Ridley gave the Jaguars a 7-0 first-quarter lead and Lawrence's second-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Zay Jones gave them a 14-7 lead.
Lawrence overall called it a "pretty sloppy game."
"They presented some challenges for us offensively," he said. "We ended up making the plays we had to make to win. The defense really kept us in the game. We put them in a bad spot a few times where they
"It was great to see them pick us up when we needed it. Obviously, it wasn't a super clean game offensively. There's a lot of things to clean up but you can't be too upset with a win. It's hard to win in this league and a division game, too.
"That's big for us. A good start."
Richardson, making his first NFL start in his first game, completed 24 of 37 passes for 223 yards and one touchdown with an interception. His two-yard touchdown run tied it 7-7 early in the second quarter and touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Pittman tied the game early in the third quarter.
The Jaguars registered four sacks – a career-high three by outside linebacker Josh Allen and another by outside linebacker Travon Walker late in the second. The Jaguars also forced three turnovers, with defensive lineman Antonio Blackson recovering a first-half fumble and linebacker Devin Lloyd recovering one in the third quarter.
The Jaguars also stopped the Colts on four of five fourth-down conversion attempts.
"I did what I was expected to do for this defense, and everybody did their part," Allen said. "If we continue to do that, continue to grow, continue to get better, I think we can be a hell of a team this year."
Step by Step:
- Lawrence's nine-yard scramble touchdown pass to Ridley gave the Jaguars a 7-0 lead with 5:18 remaining in the first quarter – capping a nine-play, 61-yard drive that featured Lawrence passing four times to Ridley for 41 yards. The Jaguars' defense was solid early, forcing three-and-out drives on the first two Colts possessions.
- Richardson capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard game-tying run on the first play of the second quarter on the possession immediately following Ridley's early touchdown. The Jaguars stopped the Colts at the Jaguars 15 after an interception off Lawrence to stop one threat, then stopped the Colts on fourth down at the Jaguars 42 on the next possession. An 18-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to Jones gave the Jaguars a 14-7 lead with 4:56 remaining before halftime.
- The Colts tied the score shortly after halftime, forcing a three-and-out by the Jaguars on the third quarter's opening possession and making it 14-14 with a 39-yard catch-and-run touchdown by wide receiver Michael Pittman after a short pass from Richardson. Jaguars kicker Brandon McManus capped the ensuing drive with a 45-yard field goal to give the Jaguars a 17-14 lead with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter. The Colts then took their first lead with defensive tackle DeForest Buckner returned a fumble 26 yards for a touchdown on a play that included fumbles by Lawrence and Bigsby with 2:27 remaining in the third quarter.
- Bigsby's one-yard game-winner capped a 10-play, 46-yard drive. That was set up when wide receiver Jamal Agnew returned a punt 47 yards to the Colts 46 and Lawrence converted fourth-and-two from the Colts with a four-yard pass to Jones.
- Game day inactives for the Jaguars Sunday were rookie safety Antonio Johnson (hamstring), rookie defensive lineman Tyler Lacy (hip), rookie wide receiver Parker Washington, rookie wide receiver Elijah Cooks, rookie cornerback Christian Braswell and running back JaMycal Hasty.
- Jaguars cornerback Greg Junior left in the first half with a hamstring injury and did not return.
Right guard Brandon Scherff left with an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return, and was replaced by veteran Tyler Shatley. "He was evaluated on the sideline," Pederson said. "He said he could probably go, but just couldn't brace and anchor and all that kind of stuff. You don't want to risk anything further."
What we've all been waiting for 🐆 In game is full of ACTION and you don't want to miss out on these top shots throughout the Jaguars vs. Colts game!