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Jacksonville introduces Colts to Rock Bottom, USA

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 22: Jacoby Brissett #7 of the Indianapolis Colts is hit by Calais Campbell #93 of the Jacksonville Jaguars after throwing a pass during the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – For those wondering what Rock Bottom, USA looks like, cue up video of Colts vs. Jaguars.

Watch at your own risk.

With their season already hanging by a thread, the Indianapolis Colts might have seen that thread snap and their season careen over the cliff Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Think of Wile E. Coyete and the puff of smoke at the bottom of the mountain.

Jacksonville 27, Colts 0.

And don’t kid yourself, it wasn’t that close and certainly wasn’t competitive.

At a loss to explain the listless, all-inclusive ineffectiveness, veteran safety Darius Butler turned philosophical.

“It’s football, man,’’ he said. “There’s a lot of parallels in football and life. Sometimes you get knocked on your ass and you’ve got to get up. You have no choice.

“You get fired, you’ve got to get up and go find a way to eat. That’s what it is. We’ve got to find a way to eat.’’

The “fired’’ comment wasn’t aimed at anyone in particular, but how much longer will that be the case?

Owner Jim Irsay has never fired a head coach during a season, and besides, that rarely achieves the desired results. One line of thinking has been it would take an embarrassing moment – or two – for Irsay to deviate and relieve Chuck Pagano of his duties.

At its essence, coming out with zero passion and getting worked over by the Jaguars – at home and with the season essentially hanging in the balance – is the definition of an embarrassment.

Not surprisingly, Pagano shouldered the blame for what was certainly the worst performance of the season – that’s including the opening 37-point loss to the Rams – and one of the worst in recent memory.

“Wasn’t much of anything that we did well today and that falls on me,’’ he said. “It comes back to preparation and execution. This is a tough one.

“Ten sacks I think we gave up. Couldn’t protect. Couldn’t stop them. Couldn’t get off the field on third down. Didn’t play well in the red area. Gave up big plays. There’s a lot to fix.’’

But is any of it fixable? By all accounts, neither Pagano nor his staff came up with any answers during the week of preparation and had the players ready to play. That’s on the coaches.

As for the players, only three could exit Lucas Oil Stadium and insist they had done nothing to contribute to the fiasco: kicker Adam Vinatieri, backup quarterback Scott Tolzien and backup offensive lineman Kyle Kalis.

They didn’t play.

Everyone else could be questioned for aiding and abetting a crime against football.

The loss dropped the Colts to 2-5, last in the AFC South. Ahead are road tests at Cincinnati and Houston before a Nov. 12 meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Lucas Oil Stadium.

That certainly looks like 2-8 heading into the bye.

Butler was asked if Sunday represented rock bottom for the franchise.

“This is bad,’’ he said. “It’s pretty bad.

“Every team has good players. At any point if you come out flat and you do those things, what happened today can happen.’’

Those things?

The Colts got nothing done on offense, other than test the durability of quarterback Jacoby Brissett. He was sacked 10 times, the second-most allowed in the team’s 65-year history, and the offense suffered its first regular-season shutout in 24 years.

Brissett passed for 200 yards when he wasn’t picking himself off the turf. After enduring a one-catch, four-target game at Tennessee Monday night, T.Y. Hilton finished with two catches and 27 yards on eight targets.

He also undoubtedly raised eyebrows among management with a post-game comment blaming the offensive line for the lack of productivity.

“We’ve got to take some pride up front and block for (Brissett),’’ Hilton said.

The defense? Where to start? The Jaguars finished with 518 yards despite easing up in the second half and put the game away by scoring on its first four first-half possessions – two touchdowns, two Josh Lambo field goals for a 20-0 halftime lead. Blake Bortles passed for 330 yards, one touchdown and a 124.7 rating.

And they were without rookie running back Leonard Fournette, without question their best offensive player who missed the game with an ankle injury. T.J  Yeldon filled in nicely with 122 yards on nine carries.

Jacksonville averaged a ridiculous 8 yards per play on offense and converted 8-of-14 times on third down. It’s worth questioning the want-to of the defense considering the Jaguars rattled off six plays that gained at least 24 yards, including four of at least 45. Yeldon gutted the Colts with a 58-yard TD run and Bortles’ pitch-and-catch afternoon included a 52-yard completion to rookie Keelan Cole and a 50-yarder to Allen Hurns.

The Colts had offered resistance in the first half of their last five games, holding the lead four times and sharing the lead in the other, before fading badly.

Sunday, they didn’t wait until the third quarter. At the half, they trailed 20-0 and had been outgained in total yards 342-72.

What happened?

“It’s on me,’’ Pagano said, insisting on shouldering the blame and probably aware the weight is only going to increase. “I didn’t have them ready to play. Period.’’

Why not?

“I don’t know,’’ he said. “I obviously didn’t. There was nothing that we did well.’’

The end result was familiar to so many others since Pagano’s arrival in 2012. The Colts have now lost 16 games by at least 17 points since ’12, including 10 by at least 27.

The question again was raised in the locker room: Is this a low point?

“Yeah, like you said, we’ve kind of had those in the past, thinking back,’’ veteran tight end Jack Doyle said. “Just a tough deal. We got the guys that aren’t going to give up, that are going to stay together and I know that.’’

Center Ryan Kelly, who missed the second half with a hamstring injury, conceded it wasn’t “fun to be a part of that. It’s a pretty sour taste in your mouth, and it’s something you learn from.

“It sucks.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.