The Colt’s kicked off their 2009 season on Sunday with a tough, hard fought victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was the typical kind of game that these two divisional rivals have grown accustomed to playing, with things coming down to the final minutes before the Colts could finally put things away for good.
It was an efficient win for the Colts, who find themselves all alone atop the AFC South thanks to opening week losses by the Titans, Texans and of course, the Jaguars. It is a position that may prove difficult to maintain though, as they now hit the road to play four of their next five games – all against teams that won their divisions just a year ago.
They will also have to do so without the services of Anthony Gonzales, who was carried off the field after collapsing with a non-contact induced knee injury early in the game. Reports have him missing the next four to six weeks, so the Colts will be looking for rookie Austin Collie and/or second year man Pierre Garcon, to fill the void.
For the first time this year, new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer had the majority of his defensive personnel available to put on the field at the same time. If Sunday is any indication of what is to come, Colts fans have to be very pleased. The front four was able to consistently apply pressure on QB David Garrard, and an occasional blitz prevented the Jaguars offense from ever getting into any kind of rhythm.
While the Colts only recorded a single sack, a better indication of the kind of pressure that Garrard was under, is that he only completed two passes in the game of greater than 15 yards – one for 19 and the other for 26. The Jags rushing game has been legendary against the Colts over their last six meetings, averaging just under 199 yards/game – on Sunday, they were held to 114.
During those same six games, the Jaguar offense had converted third downs 48% of the time, but were only successful on 6 of 15 Sunday (40%). When you consider Bob Sanders and Ed Johnson were still missing from the mix, there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future.
Offensively, the Colts held the advantage during the game in a number of different categories – number of plays from scrimmage (70 to 55), first downs (21 to 12), third down efficiency (57% to 40%), total net yards (365 to 228), and time of possession (33:56 to 26:04). Unfortunately though, they also held the advantage in turnovers as they coughed up the ball twice in the first quarter, both resulting in missed opportunities to points on the board.
It was a game where the Colts always seemed to be in control of things on the field, but the scoreboard indicated otherwise. With ‘Colt Killer’ kicker Josh Scobee standing on the Jaguar sideline, the ominous two point lead never allowed the Colt faithful to get very comfortable.
In the end, it was the Defense that put this game away – to be honest, they dictated play throughout. With the upcoming schedule ahead, they will need to show the ability to repeat that kind of performance if the Colts are to stay ahead of the pack in the AFC South.