It was a good weekend for the Indianapolis Colts, and they didn't even take the field.
The Colts capitalized on a bad weekend from other playoff contenders by dominating the Jaguars.
Here's a second look at how they did it.
The Real Story
The Colts came into the game down several starters, but even without their best lineup they were simply too much for the Jaguars.
Jacksonville has to play its best football on defense while hoping for a few big plays from the offense to steal a win.
The Jaguars managed neither against the Colts.
Indianapolis dictated the action thanks to its vertical passing game. Andrew Luck started strong and despite a pair of ill-advised throws, had an excellent game on the whole.
It was Luck looking long, always trying to push the Jaguars. It was Luck scrambling and bull-dozing his way to two touchdowns. It was Luck playing peacemaker after an illegal hit.
It was even Luck making a good, hard tackle after one of his few mistakes.
Leadership is often an intangible, even transient quality. Blaine Gabbert could be a leader. He certainly looks and acts the part. Ultimately, he doesn't play well enough to galvanize his teammates.
They may like him, even respect him to some degree, but there's a certain amount of success a quarterback has to have before the team will really follow him. Gabbert hasn't had enough for us know much of anything meaningful about his leadership skills.
Luck dominated the Jaguars. He did it by placing his will at the center of the game. He controlled the action. His leadership is amplified by his ability.
The Colts have built a nice mix of a few wizened locker room voices to stabilize the team, but it's Luck who is quickly molding the offense to fit his personality.
The better team won in Jacksonville, but the better team is the better team because of Luck.
Darius Butler gets top billing here for Indianapolis with two interceptions and a fumble return. That's a solid performance for a guy that was on the curb a few weeks ago.
Reggie Wayne plagued the Jags to the tune of eight catches for 96 yards. Six of his eight receptions went for first downs. Perhaps no play typified the game better than his catch-and-crawl for first down late in the first quarter.
Cecil Shorts was the lone bright spot for Jacksonville, picking up 105 yards and a score.
Gabbert was awful. His final numbers were inflated by a 52-yard pass to Shorts that was the result of a broken tackle after a 10-yard throw. He was inaccurate and ineffective. Indianapolis does not have a good pass defense, but Gabbert couldn't generate anything.
Rashad Jennings had an equally brutal night. He's now down to just 3.0 yards a carry on the season and couldn't do anything against the Colts.
By now, everyone has seen those almost comical shots of defenses playing with everyone stacked near the line of scrimmage against Jacksonville.
Some have tried to argue that the Jaguars' limited offense is not an incitement against Gabbert, but rather reflective of the state of the line and/or the wideouts.
Regardless of what internal whispers may have produced that conclusion, it's patently ridiculous.
The Jaguars have to run short routes because Gabbert is incapable of hitting anything else with regularity.
The first play from scrimmage against Indianapolis tells the story.
Secondary play was always going to be a concern for the Colts given the health (or lack thereof) of Jerraud Powers and Vontae Davis.
Gabbert showed early on that there was nothing to worry about.
Justin Blackmon got open for a deep out 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. This is one of the throws that a good NFL quarterback will eat for lunch.
Gabbert airmailed it.
On the next drive, he made a similarly poor throw to Marcedes Lewis in the same spot. Lewis made a spectacular dive for the ball and came up with a questionable reception.
Both plays illustrate Gabbert's inability to challenge opposing defenses downfield. He doesn't place the ball accurately and forces his coaches to run more manageable routes.
It was only the the first play of the game, but after one throw, the Colts had to know they had Gabbert beat.
Here's where they aligned on the first play.
Here's where they were playing Jacksonville to start the second drive.
They decided early on that Gabbert couldn't beat them.
Bruce Arians deserves major props for his go-for-the-throat approach in the second quarter. His decision to go for it on 4th-and-inches up 10-0 on the goal line was the right call.
Even if Luck had failed to sneak the ball in, Jacksonville would likely have had to punt back to Indianapolis. That field goal was going to be available later.
Arians did a nice job winning a pair of challenges and not wasting one on the Lewis catch mentioned earlier. That catch was questionable but would likely have stood. Arians used his challenges for more high-leverage situations and was rewarded.
His only questionable move of the night was a punt from the Jags' 40-yardline on 4th-and-5. Given that his team had a two-touchdown lead, however, his conservatism is easily overlooked.
Mike Mularkey attempted to go for it on 4th-and-4 at the end of the half, trailing 17-0. Gabbert committed a false start leading to a field goal, but the thinking was sound.
He also attempted a fourth down with 10 minutes to go instead of tacking on a pointless field goal.
Keep An Eye On...
Health is the major issue for the Colts moving forward. They likely need only find three more wins on their schedule to make the playoffs, but they won't pick up many Ws if they the don't get more starters on the field.
After a tough road trip to New England, the Colts play three winnable games in a row. If they can win two of three against the Bills, Lions and Titans, they'll likely qualify for the playoffs. Even one win in the next four games should be enough to keep them alive and kicking.
As for the Jaguars, the only question now is everything.
They face a brutal road test in Houston and will likely struggle to get to four wins on the year.
They have front office, coaching and quarterback questions to answer.
It's going to be a long couple of months.
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