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Mathis, Jags ready to roll


Rashean Mathis' career defines the Jaguars-Colts rivalry that'll be played out again this Sunday, in what is easily the most dramatic and meaningful of the 16 games between these two teams in Mathis' eight years with the Jaguars.

Mathis was the Jaguars' second-round draft choice in 2003, Jack Del Rio's first year as Jaguars head coach. That means Mathis is the "oldest" draft choice of the Del Rio years still on the Jaguars roster.

"There's nothing new under the sun. They know what we're going to do and we know what they're going to do," Mathis said of the two teams and the game they'll play at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday. The winner of the game will take the lead for the AFC South title with two games remaining in the season.

Early in this rivalry, which began in 2002 when the two teams were thrust into the same newly-formed division, the AFC South, Mathis was part of a defense that boasted defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, middle linebacker Mike Peterson and safety Donovin Darius. Only Mathis remains.

These days, Mathis is joined by young, developing Jaguars defensive players, such as defensive tackles Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu, cornerback Derek Cox and safeties Courtney Greene and Don Carey. That core of young talent will attempt to do what the old guys never could, which is to say end the Colts' division dominance.

"I don't know if it's a pass-the-torch game, but this could be a huge step for the Jaguars organization. You have to show up for games like this because you know they will," Mathis said.

Led by veterans of this series, such as Mathis and Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars' young cast of players has been respectful this week of the Colts and their eight-year playoff run.

"I'm not going to get into trash-talking," Jones-Drew said. "Our job is to keep it like another game. Once you get between the lines, it's just a football game."

"I'm excited. It feels good to be in the position we're in and knowing what will happen if we win the game," Knighton said. "When they're in the red zone, you have to limit them to field goals. You can't let them score. The teams that have beaten them haven't let them run the ball at all."

It'll primarily be Knighton's and Alualu's combined responsibility to deny quarterback Peyton Manning a running game, which would force the Colts to be one-dimensional. That's when Mathis, Cox and company enter the picture. The Jaguars pass-defense has to play better than its number 28 ranking. It can't allow Reggie Wayne and company to run open in the secondary.

"You know where he likes to throw the ball. We know what pressure does to every quarterback and we know what pressure does to Peyton. He's expecting his receivers to beat you and we're expecting our defensive backs to make plays," Mathis said.

What, precisely, does pressure do to Manning?

"It makes him throw the ball a little quicker; not being able to get to that second read. You see it week in and week out. The team that gets pressure usually wins the game," Mathis said.

"I think we have everything it takes to take him out of his rhythm," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. Mincey leads the Jaguars with five sacks.

On offense, the Jaguars will no doubt try to run the ball and dominate time of possession. That's always been the formula for limiting Manning's scoring opportunities.

"It's not about yards, it's about keeping it relevant," Jones-Drew said when asked to give a rushing yards total necessary to claim victory. "They want to get us to pass so they can rush the passer."

"We just have to play Jaguars football and that's being balanced. If we can play our game, we'll be fine," quarterback David Garrard said. "This is a Sunday for us to remember."

"We're looking forward to going in there and stealing one from them," wide receiver Mike Thomas said.

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