It was a huge game for the Indianapolis Colts. This game would mean everything for the team's playoff hopes as they face the Jacksonville Jaguars. Entering the game, Indy trailed one game behind in the AFC South division to the Jags with a 7-6 record. A win today would mean a division lead. And they did that, taking every second as their last, topping them with a 34-24 victory to lead the AFC South.
It is right now the playoffs for the Colts, it feels like. Entering Week 13, they were 6-6, dropping three straight with Peyton Manning's struggles. Since then, the Colts are back to their old ways. If they win the rest of the games for the year, they are now in the playoffs.
"Since that Cowboys game, we knew we really had four must-win games and we've won two of them," Manning said. "It's a good win, but it's just one game and we've got to be able to do that again next week."
The Colts got a pretty easy schedule coming up. Manning has been solid versus the Oakland Raiders, but they won't be easy as they have dropped the NFL's top teams this season. The Colts have already been coming off a win over the Tennessee Titans in a tough match-up on the road. Now they will host them at Lucas Oil Stadium, which could mean an easy win.
Indianapolis and Jacksonville are tied 8-6. But if the playoffs were to start now, the Colts would advance while the Jags slip back. So if both teams win every single game for the rest of the season, Indianapolis advances.
Manning played like the four-time MVP, and was 71 yards short of breaking Dan Marino's record of most 300-yard passing games with 63. One more game and Manning holds the record. Manning is already breaking a bunch of Marino's records and is on pace to now break Brett Favre's records of touchdowns, games played consecutively, passing yards, and much much more.
Manning doesn't mind if the Colts do not reach twelve wins this season. Manning said in the press conference that it still feels like a normal season like any other. The record doesn't matter at this point for Indianapolis, it's all just about making the playoffs.
Entering the game, many thought the Jacksonville Jaguars will light up the running game while the Colts light up the passing game. It was the other way around. The Colts were led by Donald Brown, who had a career-day with 129 rushing yards on only 14 carries while Indy ran for 155 yards overall. Brown had a 43-yard run, which gave Indianapolis a touchdown and also had a huge 49-yard run in the first quarter. Both runs are the longest in Colts' history since 2004.
"When you're getting to the second level, and that's the first time you're getting touched, that makes my job a lot easier," Brown said. "We just want to help complement the passing game any way we can."
Dominic Rhodes added to the running game, having 26 yards on nine carries, including a huge 14-yard run. It was Rhodes first game since December 2008. Rhodes was quoted saying the Jaguars were the Colts' little brother earlier this week. But he was right, and Indy treated Jacksonville just like it today.
Maurice Jones-Drew ran the ball for 46 yards on 15 carries. The Colts played solid defensively on one of the league's best rushing teams. Jones-Drew streak of 100-yard games was snapped. Indianapolis played tough defense and the Jags blew yet another chance of going to the playoffs like they have for the past few seasons, thanks to the Colts.
"Really, for us, it's disappointing that we didn't close the deal here," Jags coach Jack Del Rio said. "We really expected right now to be in here with a division crown captured. It didn't happen."
The game had a lot of controversial things happen. On a 3rd and 4 in seconds quarter, the Colts stopped Jacksonville. Nothing happened on the play, but the referees said to re-do the down. They didn't give a reason. The Jaguars would fail again, but would go for it and convert on fourth down. They would end up with a field goal. Just think if the down wasn't re-done, they probably would have punted. But it was 7-3.
But the Colts would score, as Manning hooked up to Austin Collie for his second touchdown of the day to put Indy up 14-3. On their next possession, Indianapolis got received with a three-and-out. They punted to Mike Thomas, who easily made a fair catch. He tricked Indy and took the ball back for a touchdown. I don't know about the rules, but I am pretty sure you are not allowed to do that. Which made me come to this point: ARE THE REFEREES BLIND?!? How they did they not notice that at all? Blasphemy!
With that, the Jags were within four by halftime, 14-10. Donald Brown would score on the 43-yard run for a 21-10 lead. The Colts would punt to the Jags a few possessions later after another three-and-out. Thomas didn't trick the defense, he this time fair-caught and made it stay that way. However, Taj Smith flew into Thomas. It was about to be unnecessary roughness at first, but when you look at the play again, a Jags' blocker, Derek Cox, flew into Smith's back which made him lose control and run into Thomas. It was a block-in-the-back and it led to Indianapolis' ball on where Thomas fair-caught it! Indy would make the most of that, converting a field goal to make it 24-10.
But the Jaguars would roll back and storm. David Garrard turned into Peyton Manning, converting big passes which led to a wide-open Mike Sims-Walker for the touchdown to cut the deficit to 24-17. The Colts' coverage blew it on every play, as all the players were basically wide-open each play.
But the Colts would storm back on defense a few possessions later, with an Antoine Bethea interception which helped set up a field goal to put the Colts up 27-17. The Jaguars would waste time and would come within a touchdown as Garrard hooked up with Sims-Walker again for a score with all defenders in his face. It was now 27-24. The Jags would onside kick. Their first one was called off with a time-out by Jim Caldwell. Thank god he called it, because when Josh Scobey kicked it, it landed in Indy's linebacker, Tyjaun Hagler's hands. He recovered, but he didn't land on the ball. He caught and took off. Nobody caught him and he returned it 41 yards for a touchdown. It was now 34-24. It was all over. Colts win!
Hagler saved the day. But the Colts need to focus on next week as they head to Oakland to face the Raiders.
"It's all about Oakland this week," Manning said. "If you take a step back these two wins won't mean much, so we hope we can continue to build on the momentum."
A scary moment happened in the game. Austin Collie got hit very hard once again. Collie was ruled out after the game with a concussion. This was his third concussion this season. Collie ended the game with eight catches for 87 yards with two touchdowns. Many are suggesting to put him on injured-reserve. Indianapolis could be pushing to that. In my opinion, I think they should unless if Collie recovers fast. During the hit where Collie was down, you could see the emotion fill up in the crowd. Many had tears coming in their eyes. The TV screen pointed their cameras to Peyton Manning, who literally looked like he was crying. I wouldn't be surprised.
But the Colts will hopefully get most of their players back in time for the final games of the season. If they do in fact make the playoffs, I expect Collie, Joseph Addai, Mike Hart, and all of them to be back.
The Colts have a lot of ways to win the division and make the playoffs:
- Win the rest of their games and finish 10-6.
- Two Jags' losses and two Colts' losses and a Titans' loss to finish 8-8.
- One win and one Jag loss to finish 9-7. This could happen. If the Jags lose next week and the Colts win, they can rest their players versus Tennessee and win the division.
So that is how things can work.
I think options one and three will most likely happen. But right now, I expect Indianapolis will be aiming for the number one option and win every game. But they can rest their players for Week 17 with all the injuries, but they need the Jags to lose next week to do such a thing.
This was a good game for Manning, as he was 29-of-39 for 229 yards and two touchdowns with a 105.6 rating. Garrard played well, too, going 24-of-38 for 294 yards with two touchdowns and one interceptions along with a 93.5 rating. Rashad Jennings caught seven passes for 64 yards and Marcedes Lewis had six catches for 63 yards. Lewis is showing he could be one of the premier tight ends in the league for years to come. Pierre Garcon had five catches for 44 yards. Reggie Wayne had that exact same stat-line of Garcon.
A huge win for the Colts! They are back on the top and back to their old swag!