The Jacksonville Jaguars ended the Indianapolis Colts 16-game AFC South winning streak in a big way on Sunday, with a 51-16 drubbing in front of 62,372 fans at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. It was the first victory against the Colts in six games and the first loss inside the division for Indianapolis since 2012, against the Houston Texans. “We talked last week about feeling like we are plugging holes,” said Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley, at his postgame press conference. “Ya got the offense, now you have to go to the defense,” Bradley said. “I felt today was better. We still got some things we need to figure out, but as far as a complete game, all three phases… pretty good.”
The first half was not a good one for the Jaguars, who managed 42 yards in the first quarter and went down 13-9 at the half. “Give them credit, they played well in the first half,” said Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles of the Indy defense, after the game. “They didn’t change anything or do anything we hadn’t seen before, we just didn’t play well. That’s about it, not a whole lot of explanations or excuses for it.” It could have been worse, but Andre Branch was able to force the ball out of the hand of Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, returning the ensuing fumble 49 yards for the defensive touchdown. “That was a big play in the game,” said Bradley. “A big play, because they were in the other side of the 50. I thought that was a huge play. Momentum was in their way and that play really changed momentum at that point.”
The play by Branch came less than a minute after Bortles mishandled a snap in the end zone, recovered by Indy for the touchdown. It was the second straight game the Jaguars allowed a touchdown with an end zone miscue. “It really wasn’t that bad of a snap,” said Bortles. “Definitely should’ve caught it, I’ve caught worse snaps than that. I would definitely put it on me before I put it on Wis.”
Jaguars’ kicker Jason Myers struggles continued as he missed yet another extra point, following the defensive score by Branch. He missed two last week against the Tennessee Titans and has missed seven this season. Last week, his issues cost the Jaguars the game, this week it didn’t matter in the end. That said, Myers has been a huge liability this season for Jacksonville and they are now likely to stick with him anyway, with it being so late in the season.
The game turned for good on the Jaguars first drive of the third quarter. Bortles found Allen Hurns on a short dump off, that Hurns turned into an 80 yard touchdown. It was the Jaguars longest play of the season and the longest play in the young careers of Hurns and Bortles. That made it 16-13 Jaguars and they never looked back. “That was definitely a momentum builder and shifter for sure,” said Bortles of the Hurns play. “Allen did a really good job making the catch and running the route. He had two guys right there on him and he did a good job of staying in bounds and getting up field.”
Rashad Greene, who had a key punt return against the Tennessee Titans last month, struck pay dirt Sunday with a 73 yard return, pushing the Jaguars lead to 23-13. After Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri hit a 32 yard field goal to make it 23-16, Bortles came back with a great drive, culminating in a four yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson with 4:51 left in the third, to stretch the lead to 30-16. It was Bortles second touchdown pass of the day. He would add a fourth quarter strike to tight end Julius Thomas. Bortles ended the day completing 16-of-30 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns. He now has 30 on the season.
Jacksonville’s defense, which allowed six touchdowns last week against the Titans, clamped down in the second half, led by Telvin Smith, who was all over the field and was seemingly in on every play. He had nine tackles in all, including eight solo. The defense knocked Hasselbeck out of the game twice on Sunday and forced Charlie Whitehurst to finish the contest for the Colts. “I was really pleased with the defense,” Bradley said. “They came out ready to play… they were prepared, I thought their energy was up at a high level. We had a couple busts in there where they were able to get a couple explosive plays, but overall, one of our cleaner games.”
The last two touchdowns of the game were rushes by Denard Robinson (four yards) and Bortles (one yard). Robinson was in the game for T.J. Yeldon, who was dealing with groin and ankle injuries, forcing him to leave the game early. Robinson ended the day with 75 yards on 14 carries, while Yeldon had 62 yards on 11 carries. Bortles added 17 and the touchdown. “It is good to get off the goose egg and have one rushing touchdown,” said Bortles when asked how it felt to finally score a rushing touchdown. “It’s big as a quarterback to be able to run, use your feet and score in the red zone.”
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With the win, the Jaguars improved to 5-8 and are now just one game behind the Colts (6-7) for second place in the division. Houston is at 6-6, pending the outcome of their game against New England in their Sunday Night Football clash. Jacksonville will stay home to take on the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday, at 1:00 p.m.