INDIANAPOLIS – Regardless the outcome – win, lose, draw – there’s never a lack of teaching points.
We give you the Indianapolis Colts’ opening 31-21 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Anthony Richardson became just the seventh rookie quarterback in franchise history to start a season opener. George Shaw (1955) remains the only one to notch a victory.
Among the individual lessons learned: the NFL is a different animal entirely.
“How different it is from college,’’ Richardson said. “Every play, every detail, everything matters in this league, so that’s one thing I took away for sure.’’
There were two specific instances that offered teaching bullet points for defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and special teams coordinator Brian Mason.
Bradley: Play through the whistle
*The setting: 2:41 mark of the third quarter; first-and-20 at the Jaguars 36-yard line; Trevor Lawrence in the shotgun with a 17-14 lead.
*The result: Buckner whipped left guard Ben Bartch with a swim move and drilled Lawrence from behind. Lawrence fumbled, and the football bounced forward where running back Tank Bigsby, apparently believing it was an incomplete pass, casually secured it on one hop. Franklin came from behind and used his right hand to punch the ball out of Bigsby’s hands.
Buckner alertly scooped up the football and returned it 26 yards for his second career touchdown.
*Buckner: “Didn’t hear the whistle. I got up and was trying to figure out what was going on and then I just see Zaire . . . punching the ball out . . . everyone is like ‘Pick it up!’’’
*Franklin: “Didn’t hear a whistle. Saw Jacksonville’s player pick it up. To be honest, I was really just trying to be an (expletive), so I punched the ball out.’’
*Bradley: He’s seen a similar play umpteen times during training camp and practices. Players are taught not to play to the whistle but through the whistle. Franklin has made a habit of irritating his offensive teammates by swatting at the football several seconds after a play has ended.
“You know who gets most upset about it? The offense when we’re in training camp. They are walking back to the huddle or the play ends and a player will come up and punch it out . . . ‘What are we doing.’ The play is over, but we keep emphasizing that. That was really Z, his awareness. He is a guy who probably is the culprit in the training camp of getting called out where he gets a late punch. But that’s why we do it right there – a great example of it.”
“Yeah, there is a little hooting and hollering during training camp and OTAs, but it’s building habits like that and it paid off for us.”
Mason: Be more disciplined
*The setting: 11:03 remaining in the fourth quarter; Colts leading 21-17 and Rigoberto Sanchez punting from the 50.
*The result: Sanchez had an uneven day punting – 41.6 average on five attempts – but dropped this one inside the Jacksonville 10. Rookie gunner Jaylon Jones raced downfield in coverage but lost sight of the football. As he spun around searching for it, Jamal Agnew fielded it on one bounce and skirted to the right for a 48-yard return. Instead of being pinned near the 6, the Jaguars had a first-and-10 at the Indy 46. Ten plays later, Jacksonville led 24-21 on Travis Etienne’s 1-yard TD.
*Mason: “We need to be more disciplined in our coverage. The first teaching point: it was a rookie mistake by Jaylon Jones and something that we will certainly get corrected. He needed to find the ball in that situation and be able to down the ball, and he got kind of turned around and did not look up to find the ball knowing the situation. We have to be better with our situational awareness.”
“Once that happens, he has to be right there to front-up the returner and make sure he gets that ball down. We have to win at Gunner. There were a number of issues we had in coverage. We had a handful of guys that kind of froze up once the ball hit the ground and didn’t continue to keep covering the field. We had two guys that had poor leverage to the left and we did not cover the field correctly like we should have.”
“It should have been a nothing play. We allowed a big return that changed the makeup of the game.’’
It’s worth noting that established gunner Ashton Dulin suffered a season-ending knee injury during training camp.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.