Grading the Colts

This week's grades of the Colts performance are in from!

The Colts kept Jacksonville's defense off balance with a well-designed passing scheme, using screen passes and quick throws to take advantage of the Jaguars' aggressive front four. QB Peyton Manning spread the ball around to five different receivers, including RB Edgerrin James (nine catches for 61 yards) and WR Marvin Harrison (six receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns). Manning completed 24-of-36 passes for 324 yards.

RB Edgerrin James was held under 100 yards rushing for the first time in three weeks, but the Colts' workhorse picked up 93 yards on a whopping 30 carries. When the Colts needed first downs or to keep the clock running, James produced.

This grade would have been considerably higher had the Colts finished the deal in the fourth quarter. As it was, Indianapolis allowed Jacksonville QB David Garrard to complete 26-of-35 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown. He completed 16-of-21 passes in the second half, most of them coming in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars rallied from a 26-3 deficit to narrow the margin to 26-18 with about a minute-and-a-half remaining in the game. Indianapolis did not record a sack or intercept a pass but had done a pretty good job for nearly three quarters of keeping Garrard contained. The Colts also forced and recovered two fumbles after pass receptions.

Indianapolis shut down the Jacksonville running game, allowing longtime nemesis RB Fred Taylor 19 yards in 10 carries and FB Greg Jones 41 yards in seven attempts. The Jaguars averaged just 2.9 yards per rushing attempt.

Four made field goals by PK Mike Vanderjagt helped improve the grade for special teams this week. Besides Vanderjagt's success, P Hunter Smith averaged 46.3 yards on three punts. Punt coverage wasn't bad, but kickoff coverage struggled early. PK Dave Rayner was consistently short with his kickoffs. The Colts misfired on a fake field goal as Smith's pass to long snapper Justin Snow was not caught in the end zone. Indianapolis also muffed an onside kickoff attempt by Jacksonville, allowing the Jaguars the opportunity to set up their second touchdown drive.

To keep a team focused on the matter at hand, like winning a third-straight division title and earning both a first-round post-season bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and not on the possibility of a perfect regular-season isn't easy. Especially with all of the national media attention the Colts' 13-game winning streak has generated. Tony Dungy earns high marks the way he has handled the entire situation.

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