INDIANAPOLIS—A bulky coach-to-quarterback communicator may have cost the Jaguars the AFC South title. If it didn't, then surely a failure to block and tackle did.
Coach Jack Del Rio's decision to go for the first down on a fourth-and-one play at the Jaguars' 39-yard line on just the fourth play of the second half resulted in a game-changing stop by the Colts that sparked their 34-24 win. It's a win, of course, that took the Jaguars out of the AFC South driver's seat and put the Colts in it.
After the first play of the second half, the Jaguars strangely called time out. Quarterback David Garrard went to the sideline, where he entered into conversation with Del Rio and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula. The conversation, at times, was animated and just before Garrard went back onto the field, Del Rio ran down the sideline and shouted more instructions to Garrard.
According to Del Rio, the communication device in Garrard's helmet was cutting out on him; that was the subject of the conversation. It became a major issue on the fourth-and-one play.
The Colts left a gaping hole immediately in front of Jaguars center Brad Meester, which should've left Garrard to plow ahead for a first down with one of his trademark quarterback sneaks. Instead, Garrard pitched out to Maurice Jones-Drew, who failed to catch the pitch. The Colts took possession at the Jags 38 and two plays later Donald Brown raced down the sideline for a touchdown that staked the Colts to a 21-10 lead.
Should Garrard have audibled out of the play that was run and to a quarterback sneak, Del Rio was asked?
"He didn't need to check to it. It was part of the call. We need to execute there," Del Rio said.
Apparently, the quarterback sneak Garrard should've attempted was communicated to Garrard by way of the helmet receiver, but the communication cut off before the words got to Garrard.
Bad luck? Yeah. Part of the game? Yeah, too. Hey, the Jaguars can't complain that the breaks haven't gone their way in the second half of this season, right?
The real blame for Sunday's loss at Lucas Oil Stadium falls on the Jaguars' inability to do what has long been their trademark: They failed to block and tackle, which is another way of saying they failed to run the ball and stop the run.
Brown, a 2009 first-round pick who has largely been a disappointment, rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown. It's the first 100-yard game of his career. He averaged a whopping 9.2 yards per carry.
Making matters worse, Maurice Jones-Drew, the hottest back in the league coming into this game, managed a mere 46 yards rushing and 3.1 yards per carry.
Jones-Drew upstaged by Brown? That's all you need to know about this game. It's why the Jaguars lost.
"If we're going to beat these guys, we need to get a hard yard when we need it and we didn't in two situations. When we do the things we're good at, it gives them trouble," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars did not do those things; the Colts did and it gave the Jaguars trouble.
In the aftermath of this loss, it's important not to allow one game to weigh too heavily in the evaluation of a whole season. There are two weeks remaining. Things could change.
This loss, however, is likely to be the game that defines this season and the statement it made is this: The Jaguars weren't quite ready to dethrone the king.
"In the games when we've given up long runs, it's come down to leveraging in tackling," Del Rio said.
"Peyton (Manning) was making a lot of checks; something they picked up during the week. They broke a couple of long runs today. We hurt ourselves by not stopping the run," said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, who didn't enjoy one of his usually strong performances.
"You can't beat the Colts that way," Rashean Mathis said.
The Jaguars seldom beat anybody that way. It's not their identity.