The Jaguars, Jets, and Bears are the only teams to beat the Colts this season. With any luck the Jags can hand the Colts their fourth loss of the season on the national stage this Thursday night. In week three the Jaguars faced a highly inexperienced team and found a way to win in the waning seconds with a beautiful catch-and-run from Cecil Shorts III. What can we learn from that win heading to Thursday?
In week three we learned that the Colts are vulnerable to a strong running game. The Jags managed to rack up 185 yards on the ground in route to winning. The yards were explosive as well, with a 59 yard touchdown coming from Maurice Jones-Drew in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Jags, the running game has been more than a little off the last few weeks. Over the last three weeks the Jaguars have only managed 180 yards. It has become clear that without MJD it will be difficult for the Jags to run the ball like they did in week three.
Fortunately, the Jaguars have learned (or at least the fans have) that letting Blaine Gabbert throw the ball is much more effective strategy (especially without MJD). Gabbert has put together 523 yards in the last two games, easily his best back to back performances in his career. He looks like he is putting it together finally. The Colts passing defense is not very good at creating turnovers (32nd in interceptions) which could urge OC Bob Bratkowski to call more aggressive plays from Gabbert. The Jaguars only threw the ball deep twice in week three (one catch, 22 yards to Kevin Elliott), but that could change as the team has gotten better at the deep ball and explosive plays during the season.
The Jags will have to find a way to limit Reggie Wayne. With eight catches for 88 yards in week three, Wayne has only developed an even better rapport with Andrew Luck. Since week three, Wayne has only had more than eight catches once (13 in week four for 212 yards against Green Bay) but coming against a division rival on the road that he is familiar with he will look to get more involved and put on a show yet again. This defense may not be good enough to limit him, but rolling some coverage his way may be a necessity.
The biggest thing we can learn from week three is that the Jaguars need to find a way to set the tempo of this game. Last week the Jags couldn’t get first down on their first three possessions, this week they must be able to do that against a Colts team that knows the value of moving the chains. The Jaguars were four of 13 on third downs in week three and must be better if they hope to hang with Luck’s high powered offense. Falling behind 14-3 at halftime in week three is not something the Jaguars can get away with in this game. The Colts won’t let the Jags back in a game after leading at half time again.
This game could get messy, as all division games are. The Jags should take everything they possibly can from week three and try to build off it for this week 10 matchup.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims