Jaguars trying to build on victory over Bills with Colts next

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) throws a pass as he is pressured by Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (99) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) (Stephen B. Morton, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a monumental upset of the Buffalo Bills, the Jaguars face a test of identity Sunday. Was the win over one of the AFC’s best teams an aberration or was it a sign that things have clicked with the Jags? How they play on the road against a divisional opponent Sunday in Indianapolis will answer that question.

The Jaguars haven’t had a winning streak since the 2019 season, a stretch of 32 games without consecutive victories. But the team is talking about the confidence that wins over the Dolphins and Bills have created.

“I think we’re playing well,” Jaguars’ head coach Urban Meyer said. “I’m glad we’re going instead of sitting. There’s a lot of momentum, guys feel good. We were down a left tackle, a tailback, at one point our quarterback, and [Brandon] Linder. There’s a really good vibe in that building right now, so let’s go out and practice and keep going.”

The Jaguars are also getting healthier.

Meyer said that Linder would be back at practice this week and is expected to be back in the lineup Sunday against the Colts. Meyer also said he expects running back James Robinson to return to the lineup after missing last week’s game with a bruised heel. Left tackle Cam Robinson, injured in pregame warmups Sunday, will be eased back in at practice this week.

After limiting the Bills to two field goals, the Jaguars’ defense will try to bottle up a Colts offense that ranks fifth in scoring this season. Unlike the Bills’ passing-oriented offense, Indianapolis has relied on the ground game, led by running back Johnathan Taylor, who is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game.

“He’s just explosive,” Jaguars’ defensive end/outside linebacker Josh Allen said. “He breaks tackles. He’s in and out of backs, and he can catch the ball well. He’s a great, physical running back, and it’s a good challenge this week. We have been statistically good against the run, and we’re hoping to keep that trend going.

“We have all the faith that we will. For us, we have to stop the run first if we want to have any success in the back end or just rushing the passer. We’re getting ready for this challenge, and we’re looking forward to it. We’re ready to play.”

Allen did a little of everything against the Bills. His career-high eight tackles included a sack. He also recovered a fumble and recorded his first career interception. He was recognized as the AFC defensive player of the week as a result. Allen could add to his season total of 5.5 sacks, but it will be more difficult against Carson Wentz, who has been sacked just 17 times through nine games this year.

“They’re getting the ball out more than anything,” said Jaguars’ defensive end Dawuane Smoot. “They’re doing quick releases. They’re just getting the ball out more than anything. They’re complementing it with their run game. They have a great run game. So if we are able to shut down the run game and put him in a pass situation where he has to throw pass five yards, I think we’ll be good.”

There are bigger questions about the Jaguars’ offense.

In the past two games, they have scored a total of 16 points and they have failed to score as many as 24 points in any game this year. One of the areas that demands improvement is third-down efficiency. The Jaguars are converting 29.8% of their third-down opportunities, the worst rate in the league. Some of that is due to the Jaguars average yards-to-go on third down, but a substantial portion is about the need to make more big plays.

“We have to start finding some,” quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “That’s me taking them when we have them, hitting them when we have them. Like I said, down the stretch we had two plays specifically where I easily could’ve hit those. One probably would’ve been a touchdown, the other one probably would’ve been a 30-yard gain to Ag [WR Jamal Agnew] on the sideline.

“I think when you’re more efficient on first and second down and you run the ball like we did last week, if you can combine all those things, then that sets up some opportunities for some shots because teams have to respect the run the way we’ve run the ball this year. We’ve been really efficient. We did enough down the stretch, controlled the clock and took advantage of some opportunities to kick some field goals. Matty Ice [K Matthew Wright] did a good job there. Just all those things go together, but we can definitely play better, so that’s a good sign.”

Sunday’s game could also see some questions for the Colts’ quarterback. Wentz’s wife is due to deliver a child on Sunday. Wentz told reporters in Indianapolis that he’s planning on playing, regardless of when the baby comes.

About the Author:

Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.