JACKSONVILLE – In a weekly feature for the 2023 season, NFL Media and Jaguars Media Analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 31-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., Sunday
- The Jaguars gutted out a hard-fought win against their division rivals on the road in a much closer game than the final score indicated. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson relied on a surprisingly stingy defense to keep the Colts in check until quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Co. found their stride in the second half. The defense forced three turnovers and four critical fourth-down stops to derail a Colts offense that was humming behind quarterback Anthony Richardson's talents as a dual-threat playmaker. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 draft briefly tormented the Jaguars with his designed quarterback runs, impromptu scrambles and superb RPO execution for three quarters until Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell cracked the code on the Colts' collegiate-like offense. The defensive resurgence coincided with an offensive awakening that helped the Jaguars put away the plucky Colts in the fourth quarter. Despite a lackluster performance from a high-powered offense that was expected to light up the scoreboard, the Jaguars topped the 30-point mark utilizing a balanced offensive approach that featured wide receiver Calvin Ridley and running back Travis Etienne Jr. Though Pederson will spend the week fixing the errors that plagued the offense, the stand-up performance of the defense and a few offensive stars was enough to help the Jaguars chalk up a "W" on the road.
KEYS TO VICTORY
- The Jaguars' defense sparked the team to the first victory of the season. Outside linebacker Josh Allen and Co. harassed Richardson all over the field until the rookie finally wilted under the pressure with a couple of costly turnovers and a few misfires that halted a few of the Colts' drives. The relentless pressure and constant harassment showcased the promise and potential of a defense that returns most of its personnel from a playoff team in 2022. With Allen and outside linebacker Travon Walker displaying a new and improved set of pass rush moves, the Jaguars' defense was able to apply pressure utilizing four-man rushes with various zone coverages behind it. As the defense took control of the game, the offense found its stride utilizing a mix of runs and throws to keep the Colts' defense on its heels. Lawrence completed 24 of 32 passes for 241 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He connected with five different receivers, with four having at least five catches. Ridley made his mark as the WR1, with the former Pro Bowler notching a 100-yard game in his debut with the Jaguars. With Etienne adding 100-plus scrimmage yards (77 rushing; 27 receiving) on 23 touches, the Jaguars were able to win with a balanced approach in a so-so performance by their lofty standards.
- The Jaguars' franchise quarterback continues to improve rapidly under the tutelage of Pederson. The third-year pro overcame a slow start to complete 75 percent of his passes. Lawrence was efficient and effective in attacking the Colts' defense with an assortment of short and intermediate throws to a dynamic collection of wideouts with interchangeable skills. As QB1 settled in after a sluggish start, the Jaguars' offense moved up and down the field with relative ease. Lawrence dropped a few "dimes" that reminded the football world of his superior talent and ridiculous potential as a passer. An 18-yard touchdown to wide receiver Zay Jones on a double move and a nine-yard touchdown strike to Ridley on a scramble were prime examples of Lawrence's skills as a playmaker. With Lawrence flashing impressive skills as a primetime player, the Jaguars are in play as a legitimate playoff contender.
- It is hard to be considered an unsung hero when you register a hat trick as a sack artist, but Allen deserves a standing ovation for his remarkable performance. The former Pro Bowler set the tone from the opening whistle with his relentless effort and persistent pursuit of Richardson. Allen's three sacks, four tackles for loss and consistent disruption set the table for a defense that played lights out for sixty minutes.
- Despite a sluggish start that led to some gut-wrenching moments throughout the game, the Jaguars found their rhythm when it counted to blow past the Colts in the fourth quarter. Lawrence led the way with an efficient effort from the pocket, but he was supported by a strong showing from his wideouts and playmakers on the perimeter. Considering the Jaguars rolled up 342 yards of total offense and 30-plus points in a performance that would be described as "so-so" by most of the players and coaches, Pederson's squad has put the rest of the NFL on notice.
- Caldwell has his unit clicking on all cylinders to open the season. The Jaguars played with great energy and effort on defense while showing great attention to detail with their solid execution. Though the game featured a few miscues from the starters, the unit's open-field tackling and pursuit of the ball stood out in a game where the defense looked like it was already in mid-season form. Considering the challenge of defending an ultra-athletic rookie in an offense that was a mystery before Week 1, the Jaguars' defense earns high marks for its debut performance.
The Jaguars took down the Indianapolis Colts in true Duval fashion. From start to finish the game was full of energy and of course we caught all the action through our lens 📷 We can't wait to see you at the Bank this Sunday! 📣