The Jacksonville Jaguars did it. With all of the breaks going their way this week, they at last won a football game they were always meant to win, knocking off an injured Colts team 24-0.
What did we make of the Jaguars (1-1) on Sunday as they potentially climb into first-place in the AFC South? We break it down below.
Jacksonville continues to serve alongside Jim Irsay as co-owners of the Colts for one week a year
The Jaguars simply have the Colts' number in Jacksonville. Don't try to explain it or rationalize it, because it can't be done. The only thing we can do is accept facts, which is that the Jaguars own just as much stock in the Colts as owner Jim Irsay does for one week out of each season. The Jaguars do not lose to the Colts in Jacksonville, at least not over the last decade. Most of the time, like on Sunday, they don't even let them in the game.
The last time the Colts beat the Jaguars in TIAA Bank Field was eight years ago. The Jaguars have had three (technically four) head coaches since then, countless starting quarterbacks, free-agent additions, first-round picks who have flopped and picks who have stayed with the team. The only thing that has remained constant has been the Jaguars' dominance of the Colts at home.
This is a Jaguars team that has won just six of their last 36, mind you. All they have done since 2017 is lose and lose big. But that changes when they play the Colts at home. Maybe its the moon, maybe it's the tides, maybe it is Jim Irsay paying for sins from a past life. Whatever it is, it is the most positive thing going for the Jaguars franchise in the last five years.
The Jaguars didn't treat this game like their Super Bowl like the Colts did, a win for Doug Pederson
Anyone who follows the Colts and Jaguars knows what the last nine months have been like. Thanks to a number of insider articles and last year's Week 18 upset being documented for last year's in-season Hard Knocks, we saw just how much the Colts were mentally and spiritually defeated by the Jaguars in last year's 26-11 upset. The Colts have obsessed over it. They made it the entire theme of their offseason. And they circled their next game in Jacksonville as a critical must-win.
The Jaguars, by comparison, mostly shrugged at any mention of last year's game. Having a brand-new staff under Doug Pederson and a relatively new locker room helped put the game in the past, but that same game was talked about nine months ago as a momentum builder for the Jaguars. Now, it was a thing of the past. The Jaguars instead talked about the Colts game this week as just another game; if there was any added importance, it was because it was an AFC South game. Not because of Week 18 a year ago.
On Sunday, it looked like the Jaguars were the ones who approached it the right away. They didn't build this game to some kind of momentous return or a chance for redemption of last week's season-opener loss. To Pederson and the Jaguars, it was just another game they needed to win -- not a game they needed to win at any cost. For the Jaguars to come out with the right mindset is a big win after the mess at head coach a year ago.
Mike Caldwell deserves a lot of praise
A major reason the Jaguars won on Sunday is because of their effort against Jonathan Taylor and the Colts' lack of downfield options after injuries to their top two receivers. Those are givens. But where the Jaguars' defense, and specifically defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell is their games on 3rd-and-pass situations.
Each time the Colts came out to throw the ball on third-down, Caldwell and the Jaguars had the answers. The answers came in the form of their pass-rush as opposed to the coverage, with Caldwell calling a number of E-T stunts to free up Josh Allen, Travon Walker and Arden Key, leading to three sacks, five quarterback hits and a forced fumble in the first half alone. Adam Gotsis and Roy Robertson-Harris went on to pick up a sack of his own in the fourth quarter as well.
The Jaguars finally have the weapons up front to take advantage of putting their players in the right spots, but it takes a coach and scheme to allow the players to have these chances. Caldwell's scheme did exactly that on Sunday, and he deserves a lot of praise and credit for it.
The Jaguars have a legitimate top play-caller at their disposal in Doug Pederson
It is hard to remember the last time the Jaguars had an offense like the one we saw on Sunday. The Jaguars have had big days before, sure, but when was the last time the Jaguars had an offensive play-caller who was clearly a few tiers above his defensive counterpart like on Sunday? Doug Pederson simply took Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to the woodshed, starting with a 15-play touchdown drive to open the game and concluding with some terrific late-game calls on third- and fourth-downs.
No matter what stop of the game or what moment the Jaguars were in, Pederson had the advantage over Bradley. He did a good job of giving Trevor Lawrence underneath concepts that took advantage of the spacing allowed in Bradley's Cover 3 scheme, while also making the running backs a huge part of the game-plan, with the James Robinson and Travis Etienne duo catching five of Lawrence's first 23 completions.
In short, the Jaguars had every answer on offense. This came just a week after Pederson and the Jaguars' staff schemed a lot of open and explosive plays against Washington. The difference in this week is the execution on the field. But for the second week in a row, it became clear the Jaguars have a play-caller who is a weapon.
Trevor Lawrence needed this game
Trevor Lawrence needed a game like the one he had on Sunday. While the Jaguars know that Lawrence is still very early in his career and that nearly every negative reaction to his Week 1 performance was overblown, there is little doubt that the Jaguars needed to see actual production and performance from their franchise passer. They got that against the Colts.
Lawrence was seemingly right on nearly every decision on Sunday. After making a number of head-scratching decisions with the ball and with his pocket movement a week ago, Lawrence looked like a different quarterback on Sunday against the Colts. He got the ball out of his hands quickly, stepped up in the pocket and kept his eyes downfield when he was forced to be flushed out. He did have a few misses, but he also had arguably the best game of his NFL career.
Lawrence needed a game like this, even if just to quite some of the outside noise on whether the Jaguars have their guy. The answer for that question wasn't going to be revealed this Sunday, last week, or even next week, but having a day like one Lawrence had on Sunday, setting a career high in completion % at 83.3 and a career high in passer rating at 111.8.