The Jacksonville Jaguars came into a Week 12 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts with absolutely no business staying close, even for a couple of drives, much less for most of three quarters.
But that's exactly what happened.
From the first drive to the middle of the third quarter, the Jaguars were either tied or within three points. Which is remarkable considering Blake Bortles only threw three passes all day aimed at a receiver 10 yards or farther past the line of scrimmage.
How did the defense keep the Jaguars close? How were they able to consistently disrupt one of the best quarterbacks of the game leading one of the best passing offenses in the league at home? And how did they get all those turnovers?
In every instance the Jaguars defense disrupted the Colts offense, it was through a combination of teamwork... everyone fulfilling their responsibility to a tee.
It all started on the opening drive of the game. The Colts had just converted for a first down and Andrew Luck was out of the shotgun. You knew they were going to be looking down the field. But Sen'Derrick Marks staying in his lane to get Luck off his mark, superb coverage by the secondary, and a hustle play by veteran Chris Clemons, helped the Jaguars get a strip-sack-fumble recovery.
Bob Babich's defensive line scheme is built on role and rotation. If Marks gets overpowered by the blocker, this strip-sack doesn't happen. If the secondary lets up, Luck gets rid of that ball a second too early. If Clemons isn't hustling, he's not able to get to the quarterback.
On the next drive, the Jaguars face second down after a short Trent Richardson run. The screen is easily sniffed out by defensive lineman Red Bryant, who gets Luck to hesitate and throw an off-target pass that (somehow) Bryant gets a hand on. Geno Hayes is also there to make Luck think twice about floating this one to Richardson.
But then on the very next play, Clemons shows off elite edge rushing ability. Quickness, speed, strength, it's all there. Marks helps with a stunt in to isolate the right tackle with Clemons and the secondary did a nice job of not allowing Luck to go underneath, but this is one of the few defensive highlights with one player doing it all.
Later in the game, facing a crucial third down (and an obvious passing play) the Jaguars dial up a special blitz on defense that completely confuses the Colts and shows off a lot of strengths of a lot of Jaguars defenders. It is art.
Lastly, here's what happens when you have an interior defensive lineman in Ryan Davis eating up blockers, Sen'Derrick literally shoving his blocker off of him to get Luck to throw an off-target pass where Aaron Colvin already has pretty good coverage.
It wasn't until midway through the third quarter that the defense couldn't carry the team any longer and a lackluster offense led to a 23-3 loss. But the teamwork among all the different units of the defense led to one of the most dominating performances by the Jaguars defense in 2014... and gives me hope for this year.