The Herald Bulletin

September 29, 2013

Defense comes up big again in dominant win

By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — Even Vontae Davis seemed a bit unsure how he came down with his first-quarter interception.

The play seemed to happen in an instant. Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert underthrew wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, and Davis got his hands up to tip the football. As it bounced above both players' heads, Davis created the slightest separation between himself and Shorts. Then he began to pull the ball in.

But he also had to make certain both feet were inbounds. Somehow, in the span of two-and-a-half steps, Davis managed to secure the ball and tap his feet inside the sideline.

"It happened so fast, and when I came down with it I was surprised I caught it," the cornerback later told the Indianapolis Colts website. "It was a tough pick because I seen it at the last minute. But I came down with it."

The play was the first of three interceptions against Gabbert on Sunday, and it was the first shot fired on a day when the Indianapolis defense often made the Jaguars offense appear helpless. Jacksonville's only points in a 37-3 loss came after an Andrew Luck interception gave it a short field, and the Colts' defense outscored the Jaguars when Darius Butler ran interception back for a 41-yard touchdown.

That return gave Indianapolis its first lead at 10-3, and it was Butler's third touchdown since joining the Colts early last season. He had two interceptions — returning one for a score — and a fumble recovery in a 27-10 win at Jacksonville last year.

He said EverBank field is a special place to him.

"It's like a home game for me," Butler said. "I'm only from about five-and-a-half hours away in Fort Lauderdale. A lot of family always comes out. That's how things work some times."

Things have worked out quite well for the Indianapolis defense the past two weeks. They allowed just seven points a week ago in San Francisco and held Jacksonville to just 40 rushing yards on Sunday.

Maurice Jones-Drew has spent the majority of his career making Colts defenders look silly, but he managed just 23 yards on 13 carries against an improved defensive front this time around.

"To hold MJD to 1.8 yards per carry, phenomenal," Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano said. "Phenomenal job by that defense."

The defense needed to be that good with the offense struggling early.

The Colts were scoreless in the first quarter and really didn't seem to get on track until reserve running back Donald Brown broke off a 50-yard run midway through the second quarter.

By then, Butler already had given Indianapolis the lead.

"We needed a spark," Pagano said. "We got off to a little bit of a slow start offensively, and the defense was out there bailing us out and making plays. That play that Darius made, the pick-6, definitely got us some momentum and was a huge play. D-Buts does that all the time. He's kinda Johnny on the spot, if you will."

Davis said the defensive backs' big plays couldn't come without help from the defensive line up front. The Colts sacked Gabbert four times — led by three from outside linebacker Robert Mathis — and never allowed the quarterback to get comfortable in the pocket.

"We're just playing together as a unit," Davis said. "It starts in practice, and we try to stick together no matter what happens. We know the (opposing) offense is gonna make their plays, but we stick together and we know we've got 60 minutes. So we just play hard for 60 minutes."