Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio told reporters Monday afternoon that he plans to have a conversation with NFL Director of Officiating Mike Pereira about Sunday's controversial holding penalty on cornerback Dewayne Washington. That penalty sustained the Colts' game-winning touchdown drive, following an incomplete pass on third down.
"This is probably worthy of a phone call," said Del Rio, who was clearly upset about what he believed was a call that shouldn't have been made. "At this point, all I can do is get fined for saying something derogatory, so I'll just say take a look at the film," Del Rio said in response to a reporter's question about the call.
He did, however, provide his version of what happened. Del Rio broke the penalty down into four parts.
"There was no hold, the quarterback was out of the pocket, the infraction occurred away from the play, and the defender was inside the five-yard cushion you're allowed to have contact in," Del Rio said of the play that resulted in the Washington penalty.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw incomplete for wide receiver Marvin Harrison on the right side of the formation. Washington was in pass-coverage against wide receiver Reggie Wayne on the left side of the formation. The Colts were facing a third-and-five play at their 31-yard line, the game tied 17-17 with 9:08 to play. The penalty flag came late and was thrown by Back Judge Billy Smith.
"You can't think someone's out to get you," Del Rio said.
The call was one of several controversial pass-defense penalties in the league on Sunday. This past summer the league sent its officials to all training camps to announce a "major emphasis" in enforcement of the five-yard chuck rule. Scores and yardage totals dipped last season and the league would seem to be intent on promoting more offensive production this season. Some believe it's a contrived effort to provide offense with a competitive advantage.
"I certainly would hope not," Del Rio said. "I think it's really important that the right call be made and that it be consistently applied."
As expected, Del Rio was in a subdued mood at his press conference. Though the Jaguars out-gained the Colts on Sunday, they weren't able to convert on several short-yardage plays, and it cost the Jaguars a 24-17 loss that dropped them into a tie with the Colts for the AFC South lead, each team at 3-1.
"To not be able to convert … a lot will be said about Fred being in there. We need to block better," Del Rio said.
Taylor is the team's star running back, but rookie Greg Jones is thought to have been drafted for the power he offers in short-yardage situations. Del Rio did not second-guess the decision to give Taylor the ball.
On a third-and-two play at the Colts 25-yard line in the first quarter, Taylor gained one yard. On the subsequent fourth-and-one, Del Rio opted not to attempt a field goal and LaBrandon Toefield was stopped for no gain.
Later in the first quarter, rookie Greg Jones gained four yards on a third-and-one play.
In the fourth quarter, Taylor lost two yards on second-and-goal from the Colts two-yard line. Shortly after that, Taylor was stopped for no gain on a third-and-one at the Colts 40, and on the next play Byron Leftwich completed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith that, along with a two-point conversion, tied the game at 17-17.
Following the controversial holding penalty and the Colts' subsequent touchdown drive, the Jaguars faced a fourth-and-one at the Colts 45-yard line with two minutes to play. Taylor was stopped for no gain.
It's important to note, however, that the Jaguars played all of the fourth quarter without their tackles, Mike Pearson and Maurice Williams. Pearson suffered what Del Rio believes an MRI will reveal to be a season-ending knee injury. Williams was overcome by leg cramps. Making matters worse, guard Vince Manuwai was playing with a calf injury that may have lessened his ability to drive-block.
"The vertical part of our passing game showed up," Del Rio said in turning his attention to the most positive aspect of Sunday's performance. "(Sunday), we saw an example of what this offense is capable of. For us to punt only one time was very good. Byron continues to protect the ball," he said.
On the negative side of the ledger, the Jaguars allowed 117 yards rushing and saw their league run-defense ranking fall from 15th to 17th. The Jaguars finished second in the league against the run in 2003.
"We've got to be better against the run than we've been the last couple of weeks. It's fundamental football," Del Rio said.
But Del Rio and Jaguars fans alike were struggling today to think of anything other than the penalty against Washington. Is there anyone who doesn't believe it was the difference in the outcome?
"There's nothing I can do right now to change that call. I don't think you ever want to see people who aren't playing the game become part of the game. As a football team, you have to decide what you can do to overcome that. Certainly, there was a lot of football left," Del Rio said.