INDIANAPOLIS – Tank Bigsby had the perfect response for his rookie mistake.
He scored Sunday’s go-ahead touchdown.
Travis Etienne Jr. made sure the Colts paid dearly for their own miscue with his game-sealing run.
Together, they helped the Jaguars end their misery at Indianapolis. Bigsby’s 1-yard scoring run with 5:14 left gave the defending AFC South champs the lead and Etienne’s 26-yard TD run following an interception closed out the 31-21 victory that snapped their five-game skid at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“I think everybody rallied behind him (Bigsby),” quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “It was kind of a weird play, but you move on. We kept giving him the ball and that shows the faith we have in him to put the ball in his hands. That was a big touchdown.”
It was an emotional day for Bigsby.
Officially, he logged seven carries for 13 yards and had no receptions. But the one touch that didn’t show up in the box score nearly turned him into the Week 1 goat. After casually catching a ball he thought was an incompletion, Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin punched it out and the Jags froze.
Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner alertly scooped up the bouncing ball, sprinted 26 yards and stretched the ball across the goal line for his second career TD and a 21-17 third quarter lead — perhaps the most bizarre strip-sack of Buckner’s career.
“We preach getting on all loose balls,” Colts coach Shane Steichen said after his first game as a head coach. “It looked like a sack or incomplete pass. Zaire made that play go, getting the punch out. Then seeing Buck go down and score, it was good to see.”
Bigsby made sure the Jags didn't trail long.
Jamal Agnew’s 48-yard punt return set up Jacksonville at the Colts 46-yard line three series later, allowing Bigsby to cap a 10-play drive by bulling his way into the end zone for a 24-21 lead with 5:14 to play.
When Colts rookie Anthony Richardson threw an interception on Indy’s next possession, Etienne answered with his own TD run. Game over.
Those final 10 minutes ruined what had been a solid debut for the 21-year-old Richardson. The third-youngest quarterback to start a season opener in NFL history was 24 of 37 with 223 yards, one TD and the interception while leading the Colts with 10 carries for 40 yards and another score before hurting his left knee on a run near the goal line. He watched the final 58 seconds from the sideline.
“I did it in the first quarter,” he said. “I can’t remember exactly what play it was, but I had a zone read and hit it on the turf.”
Lawrence was 24 of 32 with 241 yards and two scores and Calvin Ridley had eight catches for 101 yards and the Jags' first score. Etienne had 18 carries for 77 yards.
Ridley played well in his first game since Oct. 24, 2021. He missed the rest of that season after telling the Atlanta Falcons he needed to work on his mental health. He was suspended the entire 2022 season for violating the league's gambling policy.
Eventually, Ridley was traded to the Jags and said earlier this week he didn't expect to be rusty. He caught seven passes for 92 yards and the score in the first half.
“It felt good,” Ridley said. “I worked so hard in camp, I just love this team, these guys and I want to help them win games.”
THE RIGHT CALL?
Jags coach Doug Pederson agreed to turn over the play-calling duties this season to offensive coordinator Press Taylor, a former Colts assistant and the brother of Bengals coach Zac Taylor, NFL.com reported Sunday morning.
Press Taylor worked on Pederson's staff in Philadelphia and called plays during the second half of games last season as well as the preseason.
“We've been together a long time,” Pederson said. “How does anyone gain experience in this league if they're not given a chance?”
Pederson added: “He was the architect behind our fourth-quarter comebacks last year.”
Indy was already thin at running back entering the game because of the absences of 2021 NFL rushing champ Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss. Taylor is still on the physically unable to perform list following offseason ankle surgery. Moss was inactive with a broken right arm.
So when Evan Hull left with a left knee injury in the third quarter, the Colts were down to Deon Jackson and Jake Funk, who was activated from the practice squad for the game.
Jaguars: Starting right guard Brandon Scherff walked off the field after injuring his right ankle and then was carted from the sideline to the locker room. Cornerback Gregory Junior did not return after hurting his hamstring in the first quarter.
Colts: In addition to Hull's injury, tight end Drew Ogletree went into the concussion protocol. All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson returned to the game after hurting a toe in the first half.
Jaguars: Host defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City next Sunday.
Colts: Visit Houston next Sunday.
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