The Colts are headed for the playoffs for a seventh consecutive year. The Jaguars are headed for a season finale in Baltimore and then an offseason of certain change.
"I think everybody was treated to a real good football game. I was getting ready for the two-point conversion after the score," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said following his team's 31-24 loss on Thursday night at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. It left the Jaguars at 5-10.
When the game was scheduled, it was thought that it might decide the AFC South title. As it turned out, neither team will claim the division crown.
"I asked for great energy, I asked for courage and I asked for clarity of thinking," Del Rio said of his message to his players. "I think that's the one area we came up short on all year; too many gimmes," he added of mental lapses.
Those mental errors occurred on defense, where the Jaguars' pass-defense broke down time and again. Safety Reggie Nelson appeared to be targeted by quarterback Peyton Manning, who completed an easy, 41-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne when Nelson bit on a pump-fake.
"Offensively, we moved the ball very well. David (Garrard) was very sharp. We just came up a little short," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars offense scored the first two times it had the ball and had gained 251 yards by halftime. The barrage continued in the third quarter but then the Jaguars went dead in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The deciding play was an interception and 35-yard touchdown return by Keiwan Ratliff in the fourth quarter that was the game-winner.
Garrard drove the Jaguars to the Colts seven-yard line with 19 seconds to play but on third down he was sacked by Dwight Freeney and the clock expired. Thus ended a night when the Jaguars gained 409 yards and the offense looked better, at times, than it had at any time this season.
"You can't take a sack on the last play. It's got to be thrown into end zone," Del Rio said. "He made some great plays tonight. You'd like it to come out of his hand and it either be incomplete or score a touchdown. It just didn't happen."
Garrard threw the ball away on second down but was caught unaware by Freeney on third down. "I didn't even see it coming. I was just trying to get to my first and second reads," he said.
"I had a guy coming open in the left corner in Mike Walker. It was a special play," Garrard added.
The Jaguars built a 10-point lead through three quarters on the strength of the Garrard to Dennis Northcutt combination that surfaced in the win over the Packers. Northcutt caught eight passes for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Colts, his second consecutive 100-yard game.
Late in the game, however, Garrard found it more difficult to get the ball to Northcutt, who was drawing more interest from the Colts secondary.
"There were certain defenses they were mixing in to take him away," Garrard said.
The Jaguars defense completely throttled the Colts' weak running game, holding it to 32 yards on 18 rushing attempts.
"We were playing pass-defense a lot and they rushed for about 30 yards. We just didn't make enough plays in pass-defense to slow up Peyton and he was hot," Del Rio said.
They needed at least two more plays by the offense.