Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts game preview
Of all Jacksonville’s offensive issues this season, the most glaring one has been a lack of big plays.
The winless Jaguars are one of just two NFL teams (the New York Jets are the other) that have yet to gain 40 yards on any play.
"We have had our opportunities with big plays," coach Gus Bradley said. "We are just not connecting on them. You still see it. You see the shots being taken. The opportunities are there. We are just not finishing on them."
This could be the week Jacksonville turns it around.
When the Jaguars (0-3) play AFC South rival Indianapolis (1-2) in London on Sunday, they should find plenty of chances for explosive plays. The Colts rank near the bottom of the league in several defensive categories, including yards allowed. So if Jacksonville is going to have a breakthrough performance, it could happen Sunday.
"We’ve had three opportunities to go play and it hasn’t been obviously what we wanted offensively," quarterback Blake Bortles said. "But that doesn’t mean for a second that we’ve lost the confidence as an offense or lost who we are and what we believe we should do. I think our bar and our standard is still at the same level, and we just haven’t been able to reach it yet.
"So it’s still there and that’s what this week is for. It’s to be able to go out and prepare and get ready and go reach those expectations that we have of ourselves in London."
Playing at Wembley Stadium for the fourth consecutive year, the Jags hope to take advantage of the familiar surroundings by having a routine for traveling more than 4,000 miles from home and not being awestruck with the city or venue.
Indianapolis, meanwhile, is making its first trip across the pond.
"It’s a divisional game, so this game counts double," Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton said. "For us, we know the easiest way into the tournament is to win your division. It’s a big game. Why? Because it’s your next game, but at the end of the day, this game counts double."
It really could be huge for Bradley, who is 12-39 in four seasons and surely has to be running out of chances to get Jacksonville on a winning track.
More big plays would help Bradley’s cause.
With receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns leading the way in 2015, explosive plays were a staple of Bradley’s game plan. Only Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins had more receptions of at least 40 yards last year than Robinson, who led the NFL with 31 catches of at least 20 yards.
The Jaguars insist opponents are doing more to take away Robinson, doubling him on some downs and keeping a safety over the top on others. They moved the Pro Bowler around more last week against Baltimore and he ended up with two touchdowns catches.
But the deep balls were missing — again.
"Our guys aren’t going to look at that and I am not going to look at that and our coaches certainly aren’t going to look at numbers," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "We’ve had our fair share of those big plays with this offense against us, and we’re not going to get lulled to sleep by numbers. And certainly we know this is an explosive offense and an explosive group of wideouts and a talented, talented quarterback that can get them the ball, so we’re going to prepare accordingly."
Other things to know about the Colts and Jaguars as they play the first of four NFL international games in 2016:
MOVING ON UP
If the Colts get their ground game working, running back Frank Gore could have quite a celebration in London . He needs 19 yards to pass Hall of Famer Marcus Allen, 22 yards to pass Colts’ career rushing leader Edgerrin James, 55 yards to pass Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, and 88 yards to pass Hall of Famer Jim Brown on the NFL’s career rushing list. And if he tops that, he could end Indy’s 53-game streak without a 100-yard rusher — the longest in the NFL.
PROTECT AND PROTECTING
Throughout the offseason, Indianapolis kept talking about protecting Andrew Luck. Luck kept talking about taking care of the ball. Both still seem to be problems. In three games, Luck has been sacked nine times and has taken 25 additional hits. Meanwhile, after a solid season opener, Luck has accounted for four turnovers in the last two games — three of which were returned for touchdowns.
With Jacksonville scheduled to play annually in London through at least 2020, the Jaguars will keep a close eye on how the Colts handle playing overseas and returning home without an immediate bye week. Indy hosts Chicago next week. "We’ll see how they do with it," Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. "I’d like to get information. It’s not something that I wanted to be the first person to try."