Despite his team's 15-point fourth quarter that gave the Jaguars a slim hope of pulling even with the Colts in the closing seconds, Jacksonville Head Coach Jack Del Rio acknowledged that his team didn't quite measure up during their 26-18 loss at home.
"We just weren't quite good enough today," he said during his postgame news conference.
Del Rio expressed his disappointment with his team's turnovers and their inability to take advantage of scoring opportunities.
"We had three fumbles I believe -- four, and lost three of them -- and
that makes it difficult," he said. "And we were only two out of five
in the red zone. You get down there against a team that scores a lot, you've got
to come away with points."
Two of those fumbles lost were by tight end Kyle Brady. The other one spoiled a huge scoring opportunity when quarterback David Garrard coughed it up after being hit by Colts defensive end Robert Mathis inside the Indianapolis 5-yard line.
"When I put the ball on the ground right there at the 2-yard line, that's tough," Garrard said following the game. "And you never want to put your team in that situation.
"When you're playing a team like that, the turnovers will kill you. And as you saw, they killed us today."
Del Rio also took note of his team's struggles in moving the chains against a tough Colts defense that only allowed three points through the first three quarters of the game.
"They [the Colts defense] did a good job," he said. "We were three of eleven on third down. And that doesn't give you the opportunity to possess the ball and control the clock and run the ball."
Garrard also tipped his hat to the Colts defense.
"They had a great defense," he said. "They swarmed, they played hard. They get you in those long downs and distances on third [down].
"You try to do whatever you can to get the first [down], but when you don't you're back on the sidelines again. And with that offense they have, you don't want to be on the sideline, you want to be on the field keeping them off the field."
The Colts offense scored on their opening drive with an impressive show of versatility. And they just kept coming, chipping away at the Jaguars defense with touchdowns or field goals. They didn't commit a single turnover, punted just three times and turned the ball over on downs once. By the end of the day, Manning had thrown for 324 yards, becoming only the second quarterback this season to top 300 yards of passing against the Jaguars defense. Edgerrin James rushed for 93 yards. Marvin Harrison added to the barrage, catching six passes for 137 yards and two touchdown passes from Manning -- including a beautiful 65-yarder at the expense of Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis. Reggie Wayne added 81 receiving yards of damage.
"The opening drive we had some mental lapses that allowed them to go down the field," Del Rio said. "Then we had one go over the top of us. That was all the touchdowns they were able to score, but it ended up being enough to win the game."
Trailing 14-3, the Jaguars almost suffered a fatal meltdown as Del Rio was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct at the end of a play where he challenged a catch by Marvin Harrison. Then linebacker Mike Peterson was flagged two plays later for a late hit on wide receiver Reggie Wayne. John Henderson followed that up on the next play by brutally and repeatedly mashing the head of a Colts player into the turf using both of his hands while on his knees above him. The Colts had a first-and-goal at the Jacksonville three. But they failed to convert it to points as James was stopped once, Manning had to passes fall incomplete, and then the field goal unit tried a trick play that resulted in an incomplete pass from Hunter Smith to Justin Snow.
Del Rio obviously regretted that series of events.
"I don't want to end up with a penalty -- ever," he said. "I thought that was a point where we had to collect ourselves, and I thought we did.
Recognizing, but downplaying the two consecutive unnecessary roughness fouls, Del Rio said, "It's never going to be perfect out there. I think that once you find that something has gone a little wrong, you make sure you correct it and get going. And I think we did that."
Del Rio was also asked the million dollar question during the press conference. You know, the one that will be bantered about in the media on Monday in Jacksonville. Why did he kick it away at the end of the game instead of trying a second onsides kick?
"I thought with three timeouts, we had to have a defensive stop," he said. "The percentages of getting another onsides there are remote. And if they get the ball there, now we've got the situation where we have to go 90 yards to score with a minute left or whatever it might be.
"I just thought the field position, with three timeouts, it made all the
sense in the world to kick it deep. And we were one play away from getting that
But his team couldn't stop the Colts on that one play. A 12-yard pass to Dallas Clark ended Jacksonville's hope of getting one more possession in the closing seconds.
Del Rio gave credit to Indianapolis for wrapping up the win.
"It's a good football team," he said. "They've earned their way to undefeated up to this point after 13 games."
But he was also proud of his team, who hosts the 49ers next weekend as they prepare to play their final three games with hopes of getting a high seeding amongst the potential wildcard teams.
"There's a lot of fight in our football team," he concluded. "They competed. But it wasn't enough today."