The Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars entered the season with a completely different set of expectations, but you wouldn’t have known it by the end of this game as the Jaguars came away with the 27-20 victory.
The Colts came into the year with quarterback Philip Rivers expected to put them over the top in the AFC South while Jacksonville’s youth movement screamed “rebuild” and “look to the future.” But while it’s only one game, the Jaguars were more competitive than expected while Rivers and the Colts have some issues to iron out.
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STORY OF THE GAME
While the Colts dominated in terms of the number of plays run, and they picked up nearly 200 more yards than the Jaguars, it was Jacksonville’s offense that was actually more efficient. They averaged 0.135 EPA per play on their 47 plays while forcing three Colts turnovers on the way to the victory.
Quarterback Gardner Minshew completed 19 of 20 pass attempts for 173 yards on the day, and he completed four out of five for 60 yards on 10-plus-yard throws. He spread the ball around to nine different receivers in a classic game of taking what was there defensively.
On the other side, Rivers is playing with his best pass-protecting offensive line in many years. They lived up to the hype, allowing pressure on just six of his 50 dropbacks. However, Rivers was still marred by poor decision-making and questionable throws, as he had three turnover-worthy plays and a passer rating of just 39.6 on passes thrown 10-plus yards from a clean pocket. Rivers’ two interceptions proved to be the difference, as an otherwise effective offensive performance is irrelevant if you’re giving the ball away.
Of course, the Jaguars had something to do with those turnovers, and rookie cornerback C.J. Henderson got off to a fantastic start to his career. Henderson came away with one of the interceptions as Rivers floated one into his zone, and he got in on two other pass breakups, including getting his hand to the catch point on the game-defining fourth-and-4 curl route to WR T.Y. Hilton.
The other defensive standouts for the Jaguars include safety Andrew Wingard, who had the other interception despite playing just 10 snaps on the day. Linebacker Myles Jack also got off to a good start after an injury-prone 2019, as he registered a team-high six defensive stops.
For the Colts, the offense showed that it could move the ball, and they used their personnel in creative ways, as nine different receivers caught passes and four non-quarterbacks carried the ball. Second-year wideout Parris Campbell led the way with six catches for 71 yards while playing 58 of his 62 snaps in the slot, and the Colts look keen to get the ball into his hands and tap into his speed.
At the end of the day, the concern is with Rivers. Many around the league think his best days are in the past, and today’s effort didn’t do much to dissuade that opinion. Rivers has had random poor decisions and floated passes over the last few years, and that was an issue once again here in Week 1.
Beyond Henderson’s performance, the Jaguars nearly had another interception by rookie edge defender K’Lavon Chaisson, who picked Rivers off only for the play to be negated by a penalty. Chaisson didn’t do much as a pass-rusher, however, staying off the stat sheet with no pressures on his 32 rushes.
On the offensive side, running back James Robinson is the clear top option as he carried the ball 16 times for 62 yards with 56 of those yards coming after contact. Second-round WR Laviska Shenault also got two carries to go with three catches for 37 yards and a score. His versatility was as advertised, as the Jaguars used him in the wildcat and in the backfield as well as in the slot for eight snaps and out wide for 19.
For the Colts, first-round wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. saw the field for 39 snaps, collecting two catches for 10 yards on his only targets. Running back Jonathan Taylor caught all six of his targets for 67 yards while also forcing a missed tackle on one of his nine carries. With RB Marlon Mack’s season in doubt, we may see even more from Taylor in the run game moving forward.