The Jacksonville Jaguars gave the 58,000+ fans at TIAA Bank Stadium a lot to cheer about Sunday as they blanked AFC South nemesis Indianapolis 24-0 to earn their first win of 2022.
The home team played a complete game in this one, making plays on offense and defense and keeping Colts quarterback Matt Ryan off balance all day. It was easily the best game the Jaguars have played in almost two years, and that includes the week 18 win last season that kept the Colts out of the 2021 tournament.
After a tough loss to Washington last week that saw the Jaguars let some opportunities get away in a 28-22 loss, they made sure they did not repeat that in week two.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence played one of the best games of his career in this one, showing the potential the Jaguars knew he had when he was drafted. He had an impressive day, finishing 25-for-30 for 235 yards. That includes a first half that saw him go 14-for-17 for 137 yards and a touchdown.
That touchdown came on the heels of a Rayshawn Jenkins interception. Lawrence completed passes to Marvin Jones and Zay Jones who came through with a catch on 4th-&-3. The drive culminated with a 10-yard throw to Christian Kirk that gave the Jaguars a 7-0 lead. Lawrence was an impressive 8-for-8 on the drive, taking over nine minutes off the clock.
Outside linebacker Josh Allen would pressure Ryan and knock the ball out of his hand to force a punt on the Colts’ next drive and after a Jaguars punt, Allen was at it again, this time getting a sack that eventually forced an Indianapolis punt.
The Jaguars would put together a six-play drive that saw Marvin and Zay Jones, along with Kirk come up with short catches, before James Robinson took the handoff and broke loose on a 37-yard run to the end zone that put the Jaguars up 14-0. That run was part of a 54-yard first half for Robinson.
This was a great start for the Jags and showed that Lawrence was content with finding the open guy and not forcing the ball deep. That’s the difference when playing with a lead and early on, the second-year quarterback showed poise putting his team in front. That does not mean that Lawrence didn’t try to squeeze the ball into tight spaces, he did, and there were still a couple of times that you cringed when he threw into traffic. The difference is, that he was not hurt by it on this day.
The Colts would punt again and Lawrence went back to work. He completed a 14-yard pass to Travis Etienne. He would find Etienne again later in the drive, leading to a 52-yard field goal with 1:43 left in the half. A punt by the Colts and a kneel-down by Lawrence sent the Jaguars to the locker room with a 17-0 lead.
That Jaguars defense played big in the first half, keeping Ryan at bay and holding Indianapolis running back Jonathan Taylor to five yards on five carries.
After the two teams traded punts on their first possession of the second half, the Jaguars would remove any doubt with a 12-play, 92-yard drive that included a 12-yard pass to tight end Evan Engram, a 12-yard pass to Etienne, and Kirk took another short pass 21 yards. Indianapolis would eventually force a 4th-and-1, but Lawrence bootlegged and found Kirk for the short touchdown pass, upping the Jaguars’ lead to 24-0.
Kirk’s numbers didn’t jump off the page, as he had six catches for 78 yards, but those two touchdowns were key.
The Colts (0-2) would show some signs of life, getting deep into Jaguars territory a couple of times, but the swarming Jaguars defense sacked Ryan five times and intercepted him three times in this one. He never looked comfortable, finishing 16-for-30 for 195 yards.
The game plan defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell brought into this contest was impressive, to say the least, and resulted in the Jaguars improving to 1-1 and 1-0 in the division.
The Colts’ last win in Jacksonville came in 2014, since then they are 0-8.
Cocoa graduate Jawaan Taylor allowed 0 pressures, hits, hurries, and sacks. Same as last week, according to Pro Football Focus and a tweet from Demetrius Harvey, who covers the Jaguars for The Florida Times Union.
It was one game and it is a long season, those words are true, but the effort and desire to win were evident on Sunday. There were things to build on in the loss last week, and the building has hopefully gotten underway after this showing.
The Jaguars look like a different team than they did under Urban Meyer last year. Yes, he is low-hanging fruit at this point and this will likely be the last time he is referenced in this space, but interestingly, when Jaguars President Mark Lamping was asked about Doug Pederson in an interview this week, he said he was level-headed and he was an adult.
That was very telling and it was likely that Lamping was taking a shot at Meyer, who would not fall under either category. Chances are, since Pederson is an adult, as Lamping said, he is treating the players as adults, making it easier to come to work every day.
The difference in the demeanor of this team is noticeable, as is the effort. That is not to say that the effort wasn’t there last season, but it was clear that this was a team running in quicksand. Sunday, they were not.
Two weeks in, this team is showing promise and it is just a matter of taking one game at a time. The next task is a tough test against a very good Los Angeles Chargers squad. That game is set for a 4:05 p.m. kickoff.