Colts dominate up front in 34-24 win over JaguarsBy CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer Monday, Dec 20, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Jim Caldwell challenged his team to control the line of scrimmage on offense and defense against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the response may have saved the Colts’ season.
“He challenged both of the interior fronts on both sides of the ball, for us to run the ball and for the defense to stop the run,” Manning said. “Both answered the bell. It was encouraging to see.”
The Jaguars (8-6) would have clinched the AFC South with a win, but now the Colts (8-6) are two wins away from another division championship.
“It hurts,” Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith(notes) said. “It hurts, but we’ll go watch film tomorrow and continue to fight and be ready for next week. It’s out of our hands, but we’ve gotta take care of our business.”
Jones-Drew had tormented the Colts like few others in recent years. In nine previous career games against the Colts, he had rushed for 883 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.
On Sunday, he finished with just 46 yards on 15 carries, the lowest output of his career against Indianapolis.
“No one is going to tell me that they are going to come in here and run the ball in our house,” Colts linebacker Gary Brackett(notes) said. “It is just pride, and you have to love what you’re doing out there. Someone is going to tell you that they are going to run it down your throat, I mean, I like to see it.”
Jones-Drew was the league’s No. 2 rusher, and he entered Sunday’s game with six consecutive games with at least 100 yards on the ground. The Colts, meanwhile, ranked 29th out of 32 teams against the run.
“They heard all week about how they couldn’t stop our run game,” Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio said. “I thought they did a pretty good job.”
Jones-Drew’s longest run was 12 yards.
“He’s a tough guy to handle,” Caldwell said. “I think our guys did a very nice job up front. I think our front seven did a very nice job of keeping him contained. We didn’t let him have any big runs, made him work for everything that he got, and I think that our guys in the secondary tackled well.”
Indianapolis also pounded the ball effectively. Donald Brown(notes) ran for a career-high 129 yards and scored a touchdown, the highest yardage total by a Colts back this season. The second-year player gave his blockers the credit.
“From the line, to the wide receivers, to the tight ends, they just did a phenomenal job blocking,” he said. “When you are in the secondary and it’s the first time you are getting touched, that makes for a great day.”
The Colts flexed their interior line muscle in key situations. On the Colts’ opening possession, Brown’s 49-yard burst—the team’s longest run of the season — set up a 7-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Austin Collie(notes).
Early in the third quarter and trailing 14-10, the Jaguars went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Jacksonville 39. Jones-Drew appeared to have trouble handling a pitch from David Garrard(notes) and was stuck for no gain. The Colts took over, and on their second play, Brown broke loose for a 43-yard touchdown that gave the Colts a 21-10 lead.
Brown’s production meant Manning didn’t have to throw as much. He completed 29 of 39 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns, both to Collie.
The only negative for the Colts was that they lost Collie to his second concussion of the season. He caught eight passes for 87 yards before going down in the second quarter. Caldwell said Collie was fine after the game and would be evaluated further.
Since an overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Colts have won at Tennessee and at home against Jacksonville. Indy will finish the regular season at Oakland and at home against Tennessee, and the Colts don’t believe they can afford to lose either.
“We have been in playoff mode,” Brackett said. “We lose and we are home. It’s no different for us going up against Oakland. We have to continue to win to get to the playoffs, and that’s what we plan on doing.”