By MICHAEL MAROT
Maurice Jones-Drew reverted to his old wrecking-ball style Sunday against winless Indianapolis. He wore down the Colts defense and eventually made it pay.
On a day when two of the league’s worst offenses sputtered, Jones-Drew kicked things into high gear by rushing for 114 yards and scoring on a late 3-yard TD run to give Jacksonville its first road win of the season 17-3.
“There was just sheer will and desire and passion, just laying it on the line for his teammates,” coach Jack Del Rio said.
The performance should have come as no surprise to the Jaguars (3-6) or the Colts. Jones-Drew has six 100-yard games in 11 tries against Indianapolis, and has gained 1,043 of his 6,102 yards against the team he once thought would draft him.
Aside from Jones-Drew, it was an abysmal day for the offenses.
The teams combined for 12 punts, 11 in the first 34 minutes, four turnovers and turned an indoor game played under ideal conditions into one that looked as if it should have been in the wind, rain or snow.
Jacksonville finished with 18 first downs and 251 yards of offense, cashing in with a third-quarter TD pass from Gabbert to Jarrett Dillard and Jones-Drew’s big run. The rookie quarterback was 14 of 21 for 118 yards hooking up on the TD pass that broke a 3-3 tie.
That was all the Jags needed against Indy’s stumbling offense.
“We feel like if we can be a balanced offense, we’ll be pretty decent, so obviously the running game is a part of that,” Jones-Drew said.
The Colts finished with 13 first downs, 212 total yards and their lowest point total since 1997, and it came on the day the franchise paid tribute to longtime offensive coordinator Tom Moore, Peyton Manning‘s mentor.
Moore probably didn’t even recognize this offense.
After running for 58 yards in the first quarter, the Colts finished with 84. Painter was 13 of 19 for 94 yards with two interceptions, three sacks and a quarterback rating of 40.3 before getting yanked for the second straight week.
And even when Painter picked up a rare first down, after Jacksonville was called for a facemask penalty, the helmet had to be fixed.
“The team is sputtering. This is not a blame game. We’re not playing a blame game. We’re in it together,” defensive end Robert Mathis said. “We just got to get out of this holding pattern.”
It won’t be easy.
At 0-10, the Colts are the NFL’s only winless team – every other team has at least two wins. If they lose Nov. 27 against Carolina, it would mark the first time they’ve started 0-11 since 1986, their third season in Indianapolis.
Sunday’s loss, coupled with Houston’s 37-9 victory over Tampa Bay, mathematically eliminated the Colts from the AFC South title chase, and their NFL record-tying streak of nine straight playoff appearances could officially end next weekend, too.
Indy has lost as many regular-season home games this season (five) as it did in the three previous years it played at Lucas Oil Stadium. And after scoring only 27 combined points over the past four weeks, the boos have become a regular occurrence.
“The turnovers were the big factor today,” Painter said. “You just can’t have those and we’ve got to secure the ball a little better.”
But it was the defense that made the first big miscue.
Indy appeared to have Jacksonville stopped midway through the third quarter when Mathis sacked Gabbert on third-and-11, but Tyler Brayton was called for illegal hands to the face, giving the Jaguars an automatic first down. Eight plays later, Gabbert hooked up with Dillard to make it 10-3.
The Colts never mounted another serious scoring threat, and Orlovsky’s fumble and Jones-Drew’s scoring run wrapped it up.
“He’s the best running back in the NFL in my eyes,” Gabbert said. “Whenever he gets on a roll like that, and he’s getting 6 yards a pop, we’re going to lean on him.”
Notes: Jones-Drew is the second player in Jaguars history to top 6,000 yards rushing in his career. … Jacksonville cornerback Rashean Mathis was carted off the field in the first half with a left knee injury and did not return. He is expected to have an MRI on the knee… Wayne moved past Larry Centers for 19th place on the career receptions list Sunday. Wayne has 829 catches. Centers had 827.