INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (December 13, 2015) – What caught our eye from the Indianapolis Colts’ 51-16 loss to the Jaguars Sunday at Jacksonville’s Everbank Field. It marked the first time in club history the Colts have absorbed consecutive 35-point losses.
A season on the brink: The Colts entered the day in total control of securing a third straight AFC South title and fourth consecutive playoff berth. That all changed after their NFL-record 16-game winning streak against the AFC South and six-game winning streak against the Jaguars came crashing down. Let’s blame early missed opportunities, yet another special teams gaffe, an overworked defense that finally wore down and penalties.
Just like that, next Sunday’s rematch with the Houston Texans in Lucas Oil Stadium takes on increased significance. It’s suddenly a must-win scenario. And it’s anyone’s guess whether the Colts’ playoff hopes rest with Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst.
After dealing with the Texans, the 6-7 Colts are at Miami Dec. 27 before closing the regular-season at home against Tennessee. Another loss could be the telling blow.
Also, Jacksonville’s solid victory raised their record to 5-8 and, incredibly, keeps them in the AFC South discussion.
Who’s the QB? As if the lopsided loss wasn’t bad enough to digest, the Colts are a mess at the NFL’s most influential position.
Hasselbeck, 40 and the NFL’s oldest non-kicker, was forced from the game twice – the last time in the fourth quarter with a rib injury – and his status moving forward is anyone’s guess. He suffered neck and rib injuries in the previous lopsided loss at Pittsburgh.
Luck missed his fourth straight game with a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle. He’s been steadily ramping up his rehab, and there’s a chance he’s back on the practice field Wednesday. Earlier this week Luck said he would only need a couple of practices to get himself in game shape.
If neither Luck nor Hasselbeck is ready for the Texans, everything’s in the hands of Charlie Whitehurst. And that’s scary. The Colts claimed him off waivers Nov. 12.
Hasselbeck was first knocked from the game in the third quarter when he was smothered by Jaguars’ defensive linemen Roy Miller and Chris Clemons. He returned after two plays. Hasselbeck’s day ended in the fourth quarter, and he was none too happy about it.
On the end of a 12-yard scramble, Hasselbeck was pushed into the Jaguars’ bench by linebacker Telvin Smith. There was no flag for unnecessary roughness, but Hasselbeck clearly disagreed. After being tended to by Colts’ trainers on the Jacksonville’ sideline, he trotted across the field with his left arm tucked against his chest.
Hasselbeck completed 18-of-35 passes for 252 yards before exiting, but was sacked three times behind a leaky offensive line.
What might have been: The opportunity to create serious separation and possibly avoid what subsequently transpired arrived with 1 minute, 11 seconds remaining in the second quarter. After Robert Mathis gave the Colts a 13-3 lead by recovering a botched shotgun snap in the end zone for a touchdown, a blitzing Mike Adams produced a sack/strip of Blake Bortles that Clayton Geathers returned to the Jaguars 34-yard line.
But instead of scoring late and possibly doing more damage on the first possession of the second half, the Colts saw everything go haywire. Jaguars end Andre Branch beat rookie right tackle Denzelle Good and batted the football out of Hasselbeck’s hand. He scooped up the fumble and returned it for a 49-yard touchdown that narrowed the Colts’ halftime lead to 13-9.
Jacksonville seized the momentum less than 2 minutes into the third quarter. Its defense forced a three-and-out, then Bortles hooked up with Allen Hurns with an 80-yard touchdown pass. On the long-distance strike, safety Dwight Lowery jumped the route, but failed to make the tackle.
After struggling early against a revived Colts’ pass rush, Bortles heated up. He led the Jaguars to a 42-point second half, and finished with 250 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and one rushing TD.
For those keeping track at home, the Jaguars outscored the Colts 42-3 in the second half.
Red-zone woes: It might not have mattered, but the Colts hardly helped themselves by settling for Adam Vinatieri field goals on their three red-zone trips. They stalled despite reaching the Jaguars’ 4-, 3- and 12-yard lines. Twice, penalties were especially hurtful – a third delay of game in the past two games and a holding penalty by center Jon Harrison.
On a personal note, Vinatieri stretched his streak of successful field goals to 20.
This and that: T.Y. Hilton led the Colts with four receptions for 132 yards. It was his second 100-yard game of the season, but first after a five-game dry spell, the longest of his career. . . . Vinatieri appeared in his 303rd game, tying Jerry Rice for the sixth-most in NFL history. . . . Contributing to Jacksonville’s blowout win was Rashad Greene’s 73-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was the second allowed in as many weeks by special teams, and the third on the season.