Sunday’s win was the first over the Colts in Indy since 2017. It was not pretty, as many first games aren’t, but it was a win nonetheless.
Here are the winners and losers from the up-and-down victory.
There were likely not many people who could have predicted the Jaguars’ defense to be better than the offense, but that was the case against the Colts.
Led by Josh Allen’s career-high three sacks in one game, the Jags forced three turnovers and stopped the Colts on four of five fourth downs.
Allen started the game off with a sack on the Colts’ first drive, and pushed quarterback Anthony Richardson out of bounds twice in a later drive to pick up his final two sacks.
Last year’s No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker also picked up a sack and newly signed Angelo Blackson jumped on a fumble. Tyson Campbell snagged an interception that set up a touchdown.
As a defense, the squad tallied four sacks, six tackles for loss, five passes defended and six quarterback hits.
Outside of the Colts’ defense scoring a touchdown, the Jaguars’ defense allowed just 14 points.
The team was always supposed to beat down on the Colts offense, and they certainly did so.
Have a day Calvin freaking Ridley.
In his first NFL action in almost 700 days, Ridley ended his night with eight catches for 101 yards and a score. He was targeted 11 times and is clearly a favorite for Lawrence.
Plays like this make it easy to see why.
Outside of Ridley, the offense had huge days from Zay Jones and Evan Engram.
Jones finished with 55 yards and a score on five catches, good for second on the team. Engram was third on the team with 49 yards on five catches.
On the ground, Travis Etienne shined with 18 carries for 77 yards and a score. He didn’t eclipse 100 yards, but was extremely effective almost every time he touched the ball. His 26-yard touchdown run was a masterpiece.
At times the offense sputtered, but the team’s marquee playmakers showed up when their numbers were called. They will need to do so again in a big way next week.
Had Jamal Agnew not almost housed a punt he took back for 48 yards, this unit still looked really solid.
Veteran kicker Brandon McManus is as good as he has ever been, connecting on a 45-yard field goal in the third quarter. While it is expected for him to make those types of kicks, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if it is McManus’ leg that wins a game or two this season.
The real winner of the special teams, though, was punter Logan Cooke.
Punters get absolutely no glory, but Cooke showed Sunday why he is one of the best in the league.
Cooke punted five times for 223 total yards, or about 45 yards per kick. His longest of the day went over half the length of the field for 52 yards.
The Colts only scored once after receiving the ball from Cooke, mostly having to deal with the tenacious Jags’ defense way deep in their own territory.
The Jaguars may have issues, but it doesn’t feel like special teams is one of them.
The Jaguars’ path to winning the AFC South
If Sunday was any indication, there is clearly a best team in the division.
Ryan Tannehill went 16-34 for 198 yards with three interceptions and was sacked three times.
Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud was fairly good, passing for 242 yards. He was sacked five times, as Houston has plenty of offensive line injuries. The team rushed for just 72 yards as a result and did not record a touchdown.
DAVID OJABO FORCES THE FUMBLE AND THE RAVENS RECOVER! pic.twitter.com/BpZQFZ4jOB— Mr Matthew CFB (@TheMrMatthewCFB) September 10, 2023
The Colts may be the second-best team in the division, but the Jags already have a one-up on them. Plus, the next time the two teams meet, it will be at home.
It is far too early to talk about the playoffs, but the path may not be so bad after all.
Running backs not named Travis Etienne
Welcome to the league, Tank Bigsby.
The Jags’ third-round selection had a largely forgettable first game. Bigsby dropped a pass that hit him in the hands, which then was picked. He also didn’t fall on a fumble that was then taken in for a Colts’ score.
Bigsby did redeem himself with a strong nine-yard run by the goal line and a one-yard touchdown. Otherwise, he had just seven carries for 13 yards.
In the second quarter, the Jags gave Bigsby three straight carries that resulted in just four total yards.
D’Ernest Johnson had just one touch for negative four yards.
In terms of total rushing, Jamal Agnew had two carries for negative two yards and Trevor Lawrence mustered together 21 yards on seven carries.
Forgettable all around for everyone but Etienne.
This group was always going to be a bit of an issue, and it showed on Sunday.
Against a fairly decent Colts defensive line unit, the offensive line allowed two sacks, one of which resulted in that weird double fumble turned touchdown.
Guard Brandon Scherff got hurt, but returned. Left guard Ben Bartch got whipped a handful of times, including on the fumble play.
Don't mind us, we'll be taking this.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 10, 2023
Rookie Anton Harrison did have a fine game, and Tyler Shatley filled in for Scherff nicely, but it is going to take far more from the line moving forward.
This unit likely will be a mainstay on the losers list, sadly.
Third and fourth downs
Doug Pederson and Shane Steichen put on a disasterclass in terms of third and fourth down play calling.
Pederson did cede play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Press Taylor, but it remains to be seen how much Taylor was actually involved in that process.
The Jags went a paltry 3-13 on third downs (Colts went 2-12) and 1-3 on fourth (Colts were 1-5).
The team faced one third down in the entire second half, and did not convert, instead having to go for it on fourth. Luckily, Lawrence found Jones for a four-yard gain.
Where was Christian Kirk in the game plan?
The expectation for the Jags’ offense was that Ridley could allow for one-on-one matchups for the other receivers.
While that worked for Engram and Jones, Kirk had just one catch for nine yards and three targets.
This production level is likely a one-off, as Lawrence certainly favored Ridley all day, but it was weird to see last year’s No. 1 option as a complete afterthought.