What may have been shocking for most, wasn’t shocking to the Jaguars as they head out of week one undefeated, defeating the Indianapolis Colts 27-20, in a game that showcased efficiency from the offense, and big plays from young players on defense.
Truly, a complete team victory, that will inspire confidence for the team moving forward.
As the game began, the feeling around the stadium was yet another game in which Phillip Rivers, now with the Colts, controls the game from start to finish, never really seeming to get off his target.
The Jaguars gave up big play after big play early which led to a quick seven points in Indianapolis’ favor.
On the day, Rivers completed 36 out of 46 of his passes for 363 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. While the Jaguars did give up a lot of yards, it was their effectiveness in stopping the Colts, when needed, that would set them over the edge.
While the Colts did not need to punt the football once today, the Jaguars’ defense made sure to turn the ball over in other ways. The Colts would turn the ball over on downs twice, while throwing two interceptions and missing a field goal. The Jaguars didn’t need them to punt, they gave the ball to Jacksonville regardless it appeared.
With an emphasis put on the team in run defense this year, the Jaguars were profitable in that area, holding the Colts to just 88 yards on 22 carries.
The defenses’ performance would ultimately be what caused worry and excitement for the team, all at once. In the end, their performance would give the team’s offense plenty of opportunities to execute.
“That was huge,” Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew said of the defenses’ performance after the game. “That was the story of the day. There’s times where we have to pick the defense up and there’s times they’ve definitely picked us up. I’m super happy for those guys. They really closed the game out. They iced the game and won it for us. That’s what a team win is all about.”
Today marked the sixth time in a row that the Jaguars have defeated the Colts at home. A game with a not many expectations from an outsiders perspective, quickly turned into a game to remember at TIAA Bank Field.
While the defensive performance might have been the story of the day, efficiency was absolutely the theme of the day for Minshew and the team’s offense, and following the game, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone spoke on his expectations for his young signal caller coming into the year, and how he thinks he has improved from the offseason.
“I think he’s been efficient for us in camp,” said Marrone. “We wanted a better completion percentage, we talked about that. We wanted to be able to score touchdowns when we get in the red zone, we wanted to be able to protect the football.”
The Jaguars went two for two in the redzone today, with touchdown passes to DJ Chark Jr. and rookie receiver Laviska Shenault. For Minshew, he would go on to complete 19 out of 20 of his passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Near perfection. He was sacked just four times on the day.
Minshew completed passes to 10 difference receivers on the day, reminiscent of a point guard in basketball, distributing the football.
Jaguars’ QB Gardner Minshew is the first player to ever throw at least three TD passes and complete at least 95.0 percent of his passes on Kickoff Weekend. In his last two games against the Colts, Minshew has completed 46 of 59 passes for 468 yards, six TDs and one INT.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 13, 2020
“Just one game in, you can pretty much check all the boxes of all the things we were looking to improve upon, and I’m sure there’s some things early on - there might have been some opportunities or things like that.”
For Minshew, his performance during week one was thanks in large part to the players around him such as Keelan Cole, Shenault, Chark, rookie running back James Robinson and many more.
“I’m just super grateful,” said Minshew. “My mindset today was just to play one play at a time. I have got an offensive coordinator that is calling good plays, receivers that caught the ball, an offensive line that is giving me time, and a running game that really got us ahead of the chains. I’m just trying to do my job one play at a time, and I’m very grateful for the opportunities and the people around me.”
The Jaguars got a lot out of the young players today.
Robinson did crack the starting lineup after the team shocked the world by listing him as the No. 1 running back on its depth chart just over a week ago, and he didn’t disappoint.
On the day, Robinson rushed 16 times for 62 yards, while catching one pass for 28 yards.
While he wasn’t able to get much going in the second half of the game (six rushes for two yards), it was his first-half performance that helped the team have success early on. On 10 touches in the first half, Robinson would carry the football 60 yards (six yards-per-carry), allowing the Jaguars to march down the field effortlessly.
Although Robinson did have a good day, Marrone didn’t appear phased by his performance.
“Yeah, I’m probably the toughest guy to talk about James (Robinson) from a standpoint that, you guys know what I’ve done,” Marrone began when asked about Robinson following the game.
“I liked what I saw early on, I went back and watched all this film and you get people saying ‘well, hey listen, on Sunday he was a free agent’ it was this, it was that . . . Unless he just, for a lack of a better term, ‘poops the bed’, when the lights are on, I feel that this guy’s gonna be a good football player.”
Robinson, who was the first undrafted free agent running back to start for the Jaguars on opening day, would also become the record holder for the most rushing yards by an undrafted free agent rookie rusher as an opening day starter.
On defense, the team’s No. 9 overall selection, CJ Henderson put on a sensational rookie debut. On the day, Henderson recorded five tackles, three pass breakups and an interception - a near perfect day.
The Jaguars’ rookie became the fourth player in NFL history to post three or more pass breakups, including at least one interception in a player’s NFL debut. Henderson joined Denzel Ward (2018), Mike Hughes (2018) and Marcus Peters (2015) as the only players in history to accomplish that feat.
Jags' CJ Henderson was sensational in his NFL debut. pic.twitter.com/A0PLKd8p1S— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) September 13, 2020
Shenault would put together a performance of his own. The Jaguars used Shenault in a variety of ways to showcase his ability, including in the wildcat formation. However, his play of the day would come on a 15-yard touchdown catch and run in the red zone, bullying Colts defenders on the way in.
Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo would shine yet again, hitting on two field goals on the day, nailing both a 50-yard kick and a 46-yard kick. Lambo has yet to miss at TIAA Bank Field since he was signed in 2017, connecting on all 45 attempts.
For a team so young, the Jaguars showcased serious poise throughout the day, something one may not expect out of a young team entering its infancy. There were hiccups, but ultimately, the team put together a performance that ought to be remembered for a long time, but most importantly - they did it as a team.
“I think a lot of us sometimes we can tend to lose faith in team, just the word team. And this team has really instilled that faith for me,” Marrone said. “And I can only talk about myself, about how they feel about each other, how close I feel to them—I feel, with no disrespect to any other team I’ve been on, outside of just being a line coach and having your own room, this is the closest I’ve felt to a team since I’ve been a head coach.”
Now 1-0, the Jaguars will need to carry this momentum as they head to Nashville in a week two matchup against the Tennessee Titans. A performance that ought to be remembered for quite some time, needs to be the start of something great, rather than a blip on the radar.