To guarantee themselves a playoff spot, the 9-7 Indianapolis Colts needed to beat their division rival, the Jacksonville Jaguars, in the regular-season finale. The Colts were heavy favorites despite failing to win in six straight trips to Duval County. But it wasn't meant to be for Indy, as the Jaguars' dominated the line of scrimmage en route to their third victory of the season with a 26-11 win. The Jaguars played spoiler — and depending on the results of the rest of the week 18 NFL slate — they may have eliminated the Colts from the playoffs. As thousands of fans donned clown outfits in protest of the decision to keep Trent Baalke employed as GM, the Jaguars' staged a coup of their own on the field.
The Jaguars' rookie quarterback looked more confident and comfortable in Sunday's season finale than he has all season. The first overall pick was nearly perfect in the first half, completing 19/25 attempts for 208 yards and a passing touchdown. Three of his incompletions were drops, including one by Laquon Treadwell that would have gone for 30+ yards and a Laviska Shenault drop that would have given the Jaguars a touchdown at the end of the half. Later, Viska dropped another easy one on third and eight that would have given Jacksonville a first down inside the red zone. But the drops would not deter Lawrence, who finished 23/32 with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and three rushing first downs. He'll enter his first full NFL offseason with some positive momentum.
The Jaguars' defense had some impressive stretches throughout the season, but they hadn't been able to put together a full 60-minutes of football often. They did today. The Jaguars' defense held the Colts to three first-half points and were incredibly stout against the run, holding Jonathan Taylor to 18 first-half rushing yards. The Jaguars' defensive front dominated the line of scrimmage and set the tone against the Colts' rushing and passing attack. Rookie safety Andre Cisco forced a fumble that the Colts recovered. Later, on the first drive of the third quarter, Jaguars' linebacker Damien Wilson got a free run at Carson Wentz and picked up a strip-sack, but this time the Jaguars' capitalized as defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton pounced on the ball, setting up another short field goal drive for the offense. Wilson forced another turnover in the second half, picking off a forced pass from Carson Wentz. The defensive line continued to play well throughout the contest for the Jaguars, on their way to five sacks. Adam Gotsis and Josh Allen led the way for the Jacksonville front. Gotsis picked up two big run-stuffs early and sacked Carson Wentz in the fourth quarter. Allen registered two sacks and did work against the run.
The First Overall Pick
Entering Week 18, the Jaguars held the number one overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Jags needed a Detroit Lions win or tie against the Green Bay Packers or a loss to the Colts to guarantee themselves the number one overall pick. Despite leading for the first three quarters, the Lions gave up the lead to the Packers late. But like the Jaguars, the Lions would not be deterred as they reclaimed the lead and earned a victory, giving the Jaguars the top pick in the Draft! The number one overall pick is highly coveted and will provide the Big Cats leverage and control in the 2022 NFL Draft.
A Positive Note?
This win will feel good for all involved. Trevor Lawrence played the best game of his young career. The Jaguars' defense held the Colts' offensive attack at bay throughout the contest. And the results of this one could ultimately keep a division rival out of the playoffs. Heading into the offseason with some positive momentum is key for the Jaguars' contributors, but the team's direction remains unclear, as potential head coaches appear to be hesitant to sign on the dotted line as long as Trent Baalke is still in charge.
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