Colts Winning Edge: Defense, James

Last year the Colts offense had to wonder at times when their defense would kick in. Today, the roles were reversed as the defense held the Jaguars to a field goal in a 10-3 win.

If the Jaguars went to Indianapolis believing they had a game plan that would effectively limit Peyton Manning's success, they succeeded.

But they fell short on the scoreboard as the Colts moved to 2-0 behind some extraordinary running by Edgerrin James and a defense that swarmed all over Jags quarterback Byron Leftwich and the Jacksonville offense.

Both offenses were very steady and patient, with the only turnover of the game occurring on the Colts' opening drive. After moving to the Jaguars' 22-yard line, Peyton Manning overthrew his receiver and was picked off at the six by former Colts linebacker Mike Peterson.

The gaffe would prove to be a glimpse of what was to come for Manning, as he had to acknowledge that running back Edgerrin James was having greater success on this day than he was able to accomplish through the air.

Manning was occasionally pressured, but he and the offensive line avoided giving up a sack for the second week in a row. He was simply out of sync with his receivers, who were getting roughed up within the first five yards of their routes by the Jacksonville defense. The delays seemed to throw off Manning's timing just enough to limit him to his career low for passing yards -- just 122 yards while completing 13 of 28 passes.

But his counterpart from Jacksonville, quarterback Byron Leftwich had it worse than Manning. While he threw for 198 yards while completing 16 of 29 passes, Leftwich was harassed constantly by a Colts defense that was relentless and seemingly tireless for the second week in a row.

The Colts sacked Leftwich six times, jumping their season total to nine after just two weeks of action. Defensive tackle Montae Reagor, who missed last week's game and much of the preseason, appeared to be fully recovered from his groin injury. He put Leftwich on his back three times, while Dwight Freeney, Raheem Brock, and Robert Mathis chimed in with one each.

While the Jaguars walked away with a +1 turnover ratio at the end of the game, they certainly gave the Colts enough chances to break this game open, fumbling six times, including twice on punt returns. Leftwich coughed the ball up under pressure three times while under pressure and rookie Matt Jones put it on the ground once. Defying the law of averages, the Jaguars recovered all six potential turnovers.

The game was scoreless at the half, but then the Jaguars took the lead on a Josh Scobee 28-yard field goal with just under 7 minutes remaining in the third period. Scobee had missed an attempt of 42 yards in the first quarter.

In what ended up being a critical strategy decision, the Colts decided to put the ball in the hands of Edgerrin James, who averaged 4.3 yards per carry (10-43) in the first half. Meanwhile the Jaguars moved away from doing the same with their running back, Fred Taylor, who had better first-half numbers, averaging 6.0 yards per carry on 11 plays.

The decisions paid off for the Colts...and cost the Jaguards dearly.

James exploded in the second half for 75 yards on 17 carries, finishing the day at 128 yards and 4.8 yards per carry. He was also the Colts' leading receiver on the day with four catches for 39 yards.

Each time he left the game for a breather, the dropoff in offensive production was noticeable. Ironically, after heading to the sidelines with just over eight minutes remaining in the game and having pushed the ball to Jacksonville's 8-yard line, his replacement, Ran Carthon, scored his first regular season NFL touchdown off the right tackle for a 6-yard score -- the only touchdown of the day by either team.

Taylor only touched the ball five times in the second half for a total of 15 yards for Jacksonville, and didn't even get to touch the ball on their final two possessions.

The Colts defense broke the Jaguars' backs with just over eight minutes remaining in the game. In an awesome display of power, the Colts defense sacked Leftwich on three consecutive plays, forcing them to punt from deep in their own territory. On the third sack, Leftwich was injured when Raheem Brock yanked at his leg while he tried to stretch forward with his free leg. Leftwich snapped backwards folding over his own leg while Colts defenders piled on to stop his progress.

A hobbled Leftwich returned for one more shot after Mike Vanderjagt tacked on a 41-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining. But the Jaguars ran out of time at the Colts' 22 when Leftwich's pass intended for Jimmy Smith in the end zone was knocked away by safety Bob Sanders.

By the end of the game, the Colts defense had allowed 303 yards, but 56 of those were in the final two minutes. The Colts have now allowed their first two opponents to score a total of just 10 points.

With the victory, the Colts extended their home winning streak to seven games. The Colts (2-0) will host the Cleveland Browns next weekend while the Jaguars (1-1) will hit the road again to play the New York Jets.


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