CLICKING ON THE GROUND
The first victory of the Shad Khan/Mike Mularkey era will be remembered for a memorable touchdown pass.
That's ironic, because before that it was defined by something familiar.
Maurice Jones-Drew, the NFL's leading rusher last season and a Pro Bowl selection the past three seasons, turned in one of the more impressive performances of his seven-year career Sunday, rushing 28 times for 177 yards and a touchdown.
"Our run game clicked," Jones-Drew said.
Until an 80-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts in the final minute, Jones-Drew had produced 193 of the Jaguars' 253 yards of offense, with 59 of those yards coming on the Jaguars' first play of the second half.
Jones-Drew burst through the right side of the line on a play called "32 Power," a play he said is his favorite play and the bread-and-butter of the Jaguars' running offense.
"God's play," Jones-Drew called it.
On the play, Jones-Drew broke through the line and scored untouched to pull the Jaguars to within four, 14-10.
"When you get plays like that, you have to take advantage of them," Jones-Drew said. "It was great to see that."
PLAY OF THE GAME
This was an easy choice. The Jaguars trailed 17-16 after Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri's 36-yard field goal with 56 seconds remaining. Still, the Jaguars remained confident, and when Gabbert entered the huddle with 45 seconds remaining he told the offense it was going to score. On 1st-and-10 from the Jaguars 20, Gabbert passed in the middle of the field to Shorts. Gabbert said later there was some risk involved because the Jaguars had no timeouts, but Shorts – who two weeks ago caught a 39-yard touchdown pass in the late seconds against Minnesota – split the defense and dove into the end zone as he was tackled from behind.
The Colts led after a first quarter in which each team controlled the ball for an extended drive. The Jaguars opened the game with a 14-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a 44-yard field goal by Josh Scobee. The Colts immediately drove 74 yards, taking a 7-3 lead when rookie quarterback Andrew Luck passed 40 yards to T.Y. Hylton with a little more than three minutes remaining.
The Colts pushed the lead to 11 points by controlling the second quarter, outgaining the Jaguars 121-57 in the period and producing eight first downs to two for the Jaguars. The Colts took a 14-3 lead when Luck passed four yards to Mewelde Moore with 37 seconds remaining in the second quarter. At halftime, the Colts had outgained the Jaguars 188-118.
A big effort from Jones-Drew allowed the Jaguars to reverse momentum and pull to within one in the third quarter. First, Jones-Drew's 59-yard touchdown run made it 14-10, Colts early in the period. After an interception by middle linebacker Paul Polsuszny – the Jaguars' first interception of the season – Scobee's 47-yard field goal made it 14-13, Colts.
The Jaguars continued to dominate the second half, and when Scobee connected from 26 yards with 11:02 remaining, they led for the first time since the first quarter, 17-16. The Colts took the lead, 19-17, when Vinatieri connected from 36 yards with 56 seconds remaining, but on the ensuing play, Gabbert found Shorts open across the middle. Shorts was tackled as he dove into the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown, and cornerback Aaron Ross knocked down a 26-yard pass from Luck into the end zone on the game's final play to secure the victory.
"We wanted to execute better than we did last week. We talked about reducing and eliminating the frustrating plays and increasing theirs. They all know what those plays are. That was an important message last night (during team meetings). Did we do it as much as we'd like to? No, but it was a good start."
"We got a good look (on the game-winning touchdown). We checked to a play where we knew we could get the ball down the middle of the field. Cecil (Shorts) did a phenomenal job clearing. He broke away from the corner who was trailing him and made a phenomenal play."
"I guess I gained that step back, huh?"
STAT OF THE GAME
The Jaguars, a week after setting a franchise-record low with 117 yards offense, produced 333 yards total offense on Sunday, with 185 rushing. The Jaguars, who ranked No. 32 in the NFL in total offense last season, have gone over 300 yards offense in two of the first three games. The Jaguars on Sunday also converted 4 of 13 third downs after going 0-for-9 in that category against Houston last week.
OFFENSIVELY . . .
The Jaguars struggled offensively in the first half, but looked much better in the second half – almost entirely because of a huge effort from Jones-Drew. He led off the half with a 59-yard touchdown run, and spent the rest of the final two quarters methodically approaching his career-high in rushing yards. He fell nine yards short, but his running helped the Jaguars control momentum much of the second half. The passing offense struggled for a second consecutive week until the unit's final play. Gabbert, who has yet to be intercepted this season, completed 10 of 21 passes for 155 yards and a passer rating of 88.4.
DEFENSIVELY . . .
The Jaguars struggled in the first half, but credit the defense for getting the Colts stopped in the second half. Rashean Mathis played solidly in his first game starting this season, and after allowing two first-half touchdown passes to Andrew Luck, the Jaguars did not allow a point in the second half until Vinatieri's last-minute field goal. The Jaguars' pass rush never sacked Luck, but they got pressure, although he did hurt the Jaguars throughout scrambling.
This came early in the second half. The Jaguars trailed 14-3 at halftime, and Luck had 137 yards passing in the first half, and while he finished with 313 yards passing, the Jaguars intercepted him once in the second half and the Colts didn't score a second-half point until 56 seconds remained.
The game will be remembered for Shorts-Gabbert, but once again, Jones-Drew turned in a performance for the memory. While many will remember his 59-yard run to start the second half, what was equally impressive was how he pounded away at a Colts defense that had to know through the second half he was getting the ball again and again. The Jaguars eventually need to get away from such dependence on the running back, sooner not later, but Sunday's work showed again why he's one of the NFL's best running backs. It's almost amusing now to think there were observers who wondered if Jones-Drew would give his best following a 38-day holdout. Say what you want about the guy, but his effort on a weekly and yearly basis should never be questioned.
Fullback Greg Jones and wide receiver Laurent Robinson left the game in the first quarter after blows to the head. Fullback Montell Owens left the game in the second quarter after a blow to the head. Jones returned, but Robinson and Owens did not.
*Jones-Drew's 59-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter not only was his longest run since November 1, 2009, it gave him 63 rushing touchdowns for his career. That set the franchise career record for rushing touchdowns.
*Kevin Eilliott caught the first pass of his NFL career Sunday. The rookie wide receiver from Florida A&M's 22-yard catch from Gabbert turned 1st-and-20 into a first down and gave the Jaguars some momentum at the end of the third quarter.
*Mularkey on the Jaguars' two-minute offense, which has produced two last-minute touchdowns in three games. "When we go into a two-minute segment," Mularkey said, "I think we feel good about it. We always felt good about it. It has been good for these two games to have that happen." The game Sunday was Gabbert's first career fourth-quarter comeback for a victory.
*Cornerback Derek Cox started for the first time this season after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury. He left at the end of the game because of fatigue, Mularkey said, adding, "I thought he played well early."
The Jaguars will play the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field next Sunday.
The Jaguars survived Sunday. It wasn't pretty, and improvement must be made, but 0-3 would have been tough to swallow and while at 1-2, the Jaguars still have a lot of holes, it's a lot more possible to fill them one game under .500 than three.