The Jaguars lost more than a football game. They would seem to have lost their starting quarterback.
Coach Jack Del Rio didn't paint a pretty picture in his postgame interview following a 29-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts that leaves the Jaguars, again, in "chase mode," as Del Rio put it. Quarterback David Garrard sustained an ankle injury early in the second quarter and Del Rio told reporters following the game that Garrard is likely to be out of action when the Jaguars play at Tampa Bay on Sunday.
"I would think it's most likely he'll miss some time. He tweaked it pretty good. It's in the ankle. He got a pretty good sprain in there," Del Rio said.
Del Rio didn't offer a prognosis for Garrard's return but it was obvious by Del Rio's demeanor he was concerned. When asked if the Jaguars would add a quarterback to the roster, Del Rio said: "In all likelihood, based on the initial prognosis, either Lester Ricard will be moved up (from the practice squad) or a veteran would be brought in."
Garrard was attempting to avoid a pass-rush when he was tackled low by defensive tackle Ed Johnson, who hit Garrard near the knee and rolled onto the quarterback's ankle. Garrard left the field with only a slight limp and returned to the game late in the quarter. Following halftime, it was announced Garrard would not return to action.
With that news, a night that began with such promise for the Jaguars and one of the most enthusiastic crowds in team history, turned dark. Quinn Gray replaced Garrard at quarterback, helped lead the Jaguars to a short touchdown drive that cut the deficit to 17-7, but after Gray was sacked in the end zone by Dwight Freeney, the outcome was never in doubt again.
"We've got a good football team. It just didn't go well for us. Tonight they were better," Del Rio said.
The Colts weren't their flashy selves on offense, but they dominated time of possession and quarterback Peyton Manning remained patient and efficient against the Jaguars' zone defensive scheme, which succeeded in denying big plays but, in the process, failed to make enough plays of its own.
"It was a big opportunity. They took care of business. It's imperative that we bounce back," Del Rio said.
Gray now inherits the task of leading the Jaguars into a stretch of three consecutive road games. Last night's loss would seem to have reduced the Jaguars to pursuit of a wild-card playoff berth, and what they do over the next three weeks will likely determine whether or not they remain in the wild-card race.
"There's a lot of football in front of us and we're going to play better than we did tonight," Del Rio said. "He misfired on a couple and we had a couple of opportunities. Not an ideal situation to be thrust into. We'll put together a plan and expect him to play well for us," he added of Gray.
Gray completed nine of 24 pass attempts for 56 yards, two interceptions and an 11.1 passer rating. The Jaguars have only two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster and wide receiver Matt Jones was made "third quarterback" last night. Jones, however, is not expected to be a quarterback candidate while Garrard is recovering from his injury.
"It's an opportunity. I'm ready to go. This week, I'll just take reps with the offense. I've been Peyton Manning and these other guys," Gray said, referring to his duties as scout-team quarterback. "This week, we'll be better."
Though the Jaguars rushed for 375 yards against the Colts late last season, they opened Monday night's game with eight passes in their first 11 plays. Against what Del Rio referred to as "the way they were stuffing the box," the Jaguars' game plan was to loosen up the Colts defense with the pass, then attack it on the ground.
"We weren't going to get too far away from the run. There were some easy completions out there early in the game," Del Rio said. "We didn't get to our plan because we didn't possess the ball enough."
On fourth and three at the Colts 34-yard line, Del Rio decided the Jaguars were outside kicker John Carney's range and opted to go for the first down, but Garrard's pass for George Wrighster was incomplete. The Colts then marched 66 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead.
Late in the first half, on a fourth-and-one at the Jaguars 49, trailing 14-0, Del Rio favored the bold route again but Maurice Jones-Drew was tackled for a loss on an end-around type of play and the Colts upped their lead to 17-0 just before halftime.
The statistics are indicative of the action. The Colts outgained the Jaguars 384-226, out-rushed the Jaguars 141-117 and held the ball more than eight minutes longer. In other words, the Colts did to the Jaguars what the Jaguars wanted to do to the Colts.
"I'm concerned about physically getting back to work," Del Rio said, referring to the short week of preparation the Jaguars have for Sunday's game in Tampa. "Emotionally, it'll take a day to get over it. It should hurt. We have a good team facing some adversity right now."