With a solid defense providing most of the lift in the first two games, the Indianapolis Colts have yet to showcase their explosive offense.
The Colts will look to balance their overall attack as they go for their best start in seven years against the winless Jacksonville Jaguars.
While the Colts have managed 562 total yards and just two touchdowns the defense has been stellar, allowing 516 yards and only 13 points in the first two games of the season—including Sunday’s 33-7 win over the rival Tennessee Titans.
“The defense is outstanding just getting us the ball,” tight end Marcus Pollard said Monday. “If we just get eight or nine or 10 points a game, we can win.”
The Colts improved to 2-0 for just the third time since moving to Indianapolis in 1984. With a win against the Jaguars they will have their best start since opening the 1996 season 4-0.
After allowing 306.8 yards per game last season—including 124.5 on the ground—and close to 20 points per game, no one is more pleased with the defensive turnaround than second-year head coach Tony Dungy.
“I think it’s really neat for those (defensive) guys that we won without the offense really having 40 points or 500 yards,” Dungy said Sunday. “They’re beginning to understand there’s a lot of ways to win football games.”
The Colts boast arguably the NFL’s most talented offensive trio in quarterback Peyton Manning, running back Edgerrin James and wide receiver Marvin Harrison. It seems only a matter of time before they break out and start piling up the yards.
With James finally healthy and fully recovered from a series of injuries that hindered him last season—he ran for 120 yards Sunday—the Colts are poised to return to the form that garnered them a 13-3 record in 1999-2000.
“We have the potential to be just like we were in ’99 or better,” two-time NFL rushing champ James said. “It’s just a situation of going out and doing it because the defense is getting us back on the field. In the past, we were forced to be on the sideline.”
The Jaguars suffered their worst defeat in nearly three years with a 38-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Jacksonville allowed Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe to pick them apart for 314 yards, two touchdowns and an astronomical single-game passer rating of 144.2 that led to their worst defeat since a 29-point loss to the Colts on Sept. 25, 2000.
Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell struggled with just 120 yards passing before being removed with five minutes remaining.
One highlight for Jacksonville was the debut of rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich. The first-round draft pick led the Jags on a 90-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter and finished 7-for-8 for 92 yards and one touchdown.
Despite his strong debut Leftwich dismissed any notion that he will step into the starting role any time soon.
“Mark’s the quarterback for this team,” Leftwich said. “That’s probably how it’s going to be. Me and Mark have got too much respect for each other to get into that. We’ve just got to get better.”
STANDINGS: Jaguars - 4th place, NFC South. Colts - 1st place, NFC South.
JAGUARS LEADERS: Offense - Brunell, 394 passing yards and 2 passing TDs; Fred Taylor, 142 rushing yards and 10 receptions; Brunell and Marc Edwards, 1 rushing TD; Jermaine Lewis, 100 receiving yards; Matt Hatchette, Lewis and George Wrighster, 1 receiving TD. Defense - Akin Ayodele and Mike Peterson, 10 tackles; Tony Brackens, 2 sacks; Ayodele and Rashean Mathis, 1 interception.
COLTS LEADERS: Offense - Manning, 384 passing yards and 1 passing TD; James, 187 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD; Harrison, 12 receptions, 103 receiving yards and 1 receiving TD. Defense - David Thornton, 12 tackles; Robert Mathis, 2 sacks; Nicholas Harper, 3 interceptions.
JAGUARS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 85 yards per game (21st in NFL); Passing Offense - 224 ypg (12th); Total Offense - 309 ypg (19th). Rushing Defense - 82.5 ypg (13th); Passing Defense - 224 ypg (22nd); Total Defense - 306.5 ypg (17th).
COLTS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 97 yards per game (17th); Passing Offense - 184 ypg (23rd); Total Offense - 281 ypg (23rd). Rushing Defense - 75.5 ypg (T-8th); Passing Defense - 182.5 ypg (10th); Total Defense - 258 ypg (7th).
LAST MEETING: Dec. 29, 2002; Colts 20-13. At Indianapolis, the Colts overcame a sluggish first half by scoring 10 points in the final six minutes, including an 11-yard TD pass by Manning with 2:26 remaining to complete the rally.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Jaguars - WR J.J. Stokes had 13 receptions, 153 receiving yards and two TDs in two games against the Colts while he was with the 49ers. … LB Peterson played for the Colts from 1999-02, starting 54 of 57 games and leading the team in tackles in ’00 (160) and ’02 (173) … In three career starts against the Colts, QB Brunell has completed 69 of 111 attempts for 1,089 yards and seven TDs. Colts - RB James’ 100-yard performance Sunday was his 27th in 54 career games … The Colts own the NFLs longest active streak (14 games) without allowing a 100-yard rusher … QB Manning passed for a career-high 440 yards against the Jags on Sept. 25, 2000 and tied a career-high with four TDs.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Jaguars - 0-1-0 on the road; Colts - 1-0-0 at home.
INJURIES: Jaguars - OUT: DE Brandon Green (knee-IR); WR Lewis (knee); LB Keith Mitchell (neck); CB Kiwaukee Thomas (groin). DOUBTFUL: WR Micah Ross (ankle). QUESTIONABLE: LB Eric Westmoreland (knee). PROBABLE: CB James Trapp (ankle). Colts - OUT: CB Joseph Jefferson (pelvis). DOUBTFUL: DE Dwight Freeney (ankle/abdomen); RB Dominic Rhodes (knee); WR Brandon Stokley (hamstring); CB Donald Strickland (groin). PROBABLE: S Idrees Bashir (knee); CB Jason Doering (finger); CB Nicholas Harper (back/knee); CB Walt Harris (knee); WR Aaron Moorehead (ankle/foot); CB David Macklin (ankle); C Jeff Saturday (back).