Five Things Learned, Colts-Jacksonville
Intro: Indianapolis earned another lopsided road win at Jacksonville, 37-3. The defense set the tone early and the offense responded over the final 45 minutes. After winning 27-7 at San Francisco a week earlier, the Colts now have consecutive road wins by 20-point margins for the first time since 2009.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts won their first divisional game of the season at Jacksonville Sunday, 37-3.
It was a dominant performance defensively for 60 minutes, and the offense found its rhythm after the first quarter.
Chuck Pagano talks about, “60 Minutes, All You Got,” and he got it on Sunday. This team is responding and growing together and at the quarter pole of the season is 3-1. Having winning “quarters” of the season is a solid approach. Doing so almost ensures playing beyond 16 games, as does winning in the AFC South.
Here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
ROAD WARRIORS – Good teams win on the road. While it may be too early to proclaim this a good team with 12 contests remaining, the earmarks are evident and if the players follow the “process,” this could be a very fun season to watch unfold. The Colts outscored San Francisco and Jacksonville 64-10, doing so on their home turfs. Indianapolis now is 6-2 in its last eight road games, a good record for any NFL team. While everyone loves the Lucas Oil Stadium feeling, the vibe on the road is a good one, too. These were very solid responses after the NFL’s scheduling elves provided the Colts two home games to start the year.
PAGANO PEDIGREE – Chuck Pagano stated he wanted a defensive presence in Indianapolis when he arrived. It appears four games into the season the time has arrived indeed. The Colts fashioned five three-and-outs at San Francisco and dominated the second half. Sunday at Jacksonville, the defense frolicked. Five straight three-and-outs in the second and third quarters were outstanding – 18 net yards gained, five punts. The possession preceding that stretch ended with Indianapolis returning an interception for a touchdown, and the one after it ended with a red-zone stop after a first-and-goal at the two. The possession after that defensive stand saw Indianapolis swipe its third pass of the game. Well done, guys, very well done. After the win at San Francisco, Jim Irsay said the performance was glimpse of the intended future. Part of his words related to defensive play. Yesterday at Jacksonville, the defensive pedigree was in living color.
WHATEVER IT TAKES – Pep Hamilton has said before he is not interested in numerical balance as much as he is with the ability to do what is needed. In the first half at Jacksonville, the Colts threw on 17-of-21 first-down plays, and one of the rushes was a nine-yarder by Andrew Luck when he extinguished his progressions. Sometimes that is how it is going to go, according to Coby Fleener. After running 12 more times than passing at San Francisco, there were 41 pass calls and 29 rushes. Imbalance? No. Just doing what needed doing. By the way, those 29 rushes produced 154 yards.
AYE, MATES – The Colts pirated three Jacksonville passes Sunday. Vontae Davis was a big part of the process. Darius Butler, after having three takeaways last year in Jacksonville, had another one yesterday and took his interception back for a score – his second consecutive such outing at EverBank Field. Josh Gordy joined Davis and Butler with interceptions. It was the first time since 2008 the Colts have had three defensive backs swipe passes in the same game. From 2008-11, Baltimore under Pagano had 82 interceptions (second in the NFL), returned 11 for scores (tied for second in the NFL) and yielded a 69.6 opponent passer rating (first in the NFL). Again, pedigree. Is a tide turning in Indianapolis?
DEFENDING THE BLADES – Cory Redding talked in 2012 about defending every blade of grass in the running game. With more pieces added to the mix now, the Colts held Maurice Jones-Drew to 23 yards and a 1.8 average. In the last seven quarters, the Colts have allowed only nine, 10, three, 12, 18, seven and three yards for a 2.0 average. Neither the 49ers nor Jaguars found the end zone over that span. Holding Jacksonville without a rushing first down was a first for the Colts since 2009. It marked only the sixth such performance in the franchise’s 61 seasons and but the third time it has been accomplished in the Indianapolis era. Pedigree?