On a day when the sunshine poured through the retractable roof at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts offense shined even brighter, thwarting Jacksonville’s last two offensive possessions and sealing a hard fought 14-12 victory in Jim Caldwell’s NFL coaching debut.
The home team started out smoothly on both of their first two possessions only to have turnovers prevent any points from being scored. Peyton Manning served up a red zone interception on the first possession and a fumble by Joseph Addai gave the Jaguars new life for a second time in the first quarter.
But the Jags could not muster any touchdowns against a Colts defense that employed an aggressive zone blitz to apply pressure to David Garrard and stuff the run attack as well. They would settle for just two field goals in the first half as a result.
The Colts finally got on the board in the second quarter courtesy of a Joseph Addai three yard TD run which capped off an 11 play, 78 yard march and provided a 7-6 halftime lead.
Indianapolis would hold Jacksonville scoreless in the third stanza while adding another touchdown on a 35 yard pass play from Manning to Reggie Wayne.
Jacksonville would finally hit pay dirt with their first touchdown of the season when Maurice Jones-Drew would punch it in from 7 yards out. The two-point conversion failed and left the Jags only trailing by two, with plenty of time for a winning field goal attempt. But the swarming Colts defense would contain Jacksonville and took the ball over on downs with just a little over a minute left in the game and ran out the clock and provided Jim Caldwell reason to smile in his first NFL win.
“Better than the alternative,” laughed Caldwell as he accepted the game ball from Colts owner Jim Irsay in the locker room afterwards. “I would like to get 15 more of these things.”
Notes: Peyton Manning completed 28 of 38 passes for 301 yards. Reggie Wayne caught 10 of those for 162 yards and what turned out to be the winning score.
While the Colts defense was stellar in the final quarter, they did allow Jacksonville to run for 114 net yards and an average of 4.4 yards a carry. Conversely, they held David Garrard to just 114 net passing yards and a paltry 3.9 yards per pass.
Rookie RB Donald Brown massed 49 yards from scrimmage in his NFL debut and looked good doing it. Nice job rookie.
Colts wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez will likely be out a month with sprained knee ligaments. The injury occurred in the first half and Gonzalez had to be carried to the locker room.
Jacksonville defensive end Reggie Hayward suffered a broken fibula and will miss the balance of the season as a result.
The next Colts game is on Monday night, Sept. 21 in Miami against the Dolphins and can be seen on ESPN.
Danny Bridges, who thinks the Colts need help at wide out even with a healthy Gonzalez, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.