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Big runs, questionable calls help Colts beat Jaguars

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If you saw a stat line of 14 rushes for 129 yards and a touchdown in this Jaguars vs. Colts matchup, 100% of people would have assumed that those numbers belonged to Maurice Jones-Drew. Well, in this game they didn't. They belonged to Donald Brown. The Colts flipped the script on the Jaguars, holding the Jaguars to 61 yards rushing and rushing for 155 yards of their own. Peyton Manning surprised many by making plays outside of the pocket as the Jaguars failed to sweep the Colts in the season series, as per usual. Fans and media people alike were wondering if this could be the year the Jaguars overtake the Colts, but some big plays and turnovers let the Colts do what they do best: win. The division is still not decided with two weeks left in the season, but the Colts now hold the edge.

The Jaguars came into the game expecting to run the ball on first down, run the ball on second down, and, oh yeah, run the ball on third down. They also played a very pass happy defense, often using 5 or 6 defensive backs. Why wouldn't they? The colts are notoriously bad running the ball, averaging only 79.7 yards per game on the ground. The Jaguars DB's were expecting to stop the pass. They should have been more concerned with stopping the run early. On the Colts' first drive, with the Jaguars playing a nickel defense, Donald Brown broke past the line of scrimmage and into the secondary where he was met by the Jaguars Strong Safety. Not Courtney Greene, whose shoulder didn't allow him to play, but Sean Considine who didn't make the tackle until thirty yards later, inside the 10 yard line. The Colts would score on a quick pass to Austin Collie on the next play.

The Jaguars offense got off on the wrong foot, as the Offensive line failed to open holes or stop the Colts' pass rush. The first drive ended on a Robert Mathis sack. Dwight Freeney was around the ball often also. The Colts started by dinking and dunking the ball, passing short. As of the second quarter, Manning had yet to throw a pass beyond 15 yards. Still, the Colts had a 14-3 lead on the strength of two Austin Collie touchdowns.

Then we got a scary moment. While driving with the ball on a third and 8, Manning threw a pass to Collie down the middle of the field. Collie went down for the ball and brought it in. Out of nowhere, Daryl Smith came over and hit Collie. Smith had his hands by his side, and did not lead with his head, so no flag was thrown, but the crowd was caught in a scared silence. Manning accidentally led Collie into his second concussion of the season, and the Colts' offense didn't look the same after the incident.

The Jaguars' Mike Thomas returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown to bring the game back close. He may have waved for a fair catch, but the play was allowed to stand. 14-10 Colts was the score at half time. Both offenses continued to struggle into the second half, until Donald Brown broke another long run, this one for 43 yards and a touchdown. The Jaguars tried to make up ground, but gave up a turnover on a punt return that led to more points. A very strange, very questionable turnover.

On the punt return, the Colts' Taj Smith went streaking down the field after Mike Thomas. He was blocked into Mike Thomas by Derrick Cox. I had always assumed that if a player on the receiving team touches a punt, that that was a penalty. After a lot of discussion, the referees decided that Cox illegally blocked Smith in the back, and therefore there was no penalty for kick-catch interference. A ten yard penalty was to be assessed on the play. The Colts, however, declined the penalty. Since the Colts recovered the punt, they took over by the Jaguars 20 yard line. A bad break for the Jaguars.

David Garrard tried to get the Jaguars back into the game, but every time the Jaguars scored, the Colts scored back. The Jaguars scored late to make the score 27-24 Colts. On the next kickoff, the Jaguars attempted an onside kick. With two minutes left and only one time out, they had no other choice. The kick was caught after going only six yards and returned for the game-sealing Colts touchdown by Tyjuan Hagler. In the end, the Jaguars didn't make enough plays, and the Colts' best players, Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney, and Robert Mathis won them the game. The Jaguars were minus two on turnovers, and in the most crucial stat, rushing yards, the Colts dominated the Jaguars.

The season isn't over, but this loss all but secures the AFC South for the Colts. They end the year with games at Oakland and against Tennessee. The Jaguars play one more home game against the flailing Washington Redskins and at Houston to end the year. Unfortunately, 10-6 might not be good enough for the Jaguars this year.