How badly did the Colts stink yesterday?
This is what happens when you go all-in on a bluff.
Chuck Pagano talked all week about how he and the Colts were pushing their figurative chips to the center of the table, even going so far as to distribute actual chips to the players themselves. They then proceeded to get the chip beat out of them in Jacksonville, 51-16, yielding a Jaguars franchise-record points while sustaining the most lopsided defeat in series history – and the most humiliating loss of Pagano’s tenure.
And thus came to an end the Colts’ 16-game winning streak against AFC South opponents, dropping their record to 6-7 and further draining the dwindling hope of a late-season surge into the playoffs that seems necessary to salvage the jobs of Pagano and possibly GM Ryan Grigson.
Unless Andrew Luck returns next week, and their starting quarterback hasn’t so much as participated in a practice drill since having his kidney lacerated five weeks ago against Denver, they face the prospect of starting Charlie Whitehurst in next week’s divisional showdown game against Houston, since backup Matt Hasselbeck was knocked out of this one with a rib injury.
This one turned 180 degrees in an instant. The Colts took a 13-3 lead late in the first half when a high snap skipped off Blake Bortles fingertips into the end zone, where Robert Mathis recovered for the touchdown. Four players later Bortles lost the ball again, this time on a Mike Adams strip, with Clayton Geathers recovering and running it back all the way to the Jacksonville 34.
Poised to blow it open, the Colts watched it all unravel as defensive end Andre Branch blew past rookie right tackle Denzelle Good, knocked the ball from Hasselbeck’s grasp, scooped it up and rambled 49 yards for a touchdown.
Though they still held the lead, the Colts had lost their grip.
>> D’Qwell Jackson was all over the field once again, delivering an active and productive performance with seven tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit and four passes defended. It was his third sack in the last four games.
>> T.Y. Hilton had 132 receiving yards (112 in the first half) for the 18th 100-yard game of his career, tying Jimmy Orr for fourth on the franchise list. It was his fourth such game against Jacksonville.
>> Adam Vinatieri continued his nearly flawless season, making three more field goals to run his streak to 20 in a row. He also passed Jason Hanson into third place in the NFL’s all-time field goal list.
>> Pagano made a terrible decision that reflected a lack of confidence in his defense on Jacksonville’s opening drive, declining a tripping penalty that would’ve put the Jaguars in a third-and-19 from their own 38, well out of field goal range. Instead, Jason Myers was left with a routine 46-yarder that he made to put the home team in front. The coach had an opportunity to walk the walk and show his team what it really meant to go all-in, but instead folded.
>> After playing well in the first half, dominating the line of scrimmage and showing a robust pass rush with three sacks, the defense disappeared in the second. The Jags scored on their first play of the third quarter, an 80-yard hookup from Bortles to Allen Robinson that was allowed to happen when Dwight Lowery and Mike Adams both took bad angles and allowed the receiver to split bracketed coverage.
>> The difference in the halves, defensively, was illustrated by this stat: the Jags were 0-of-6 on third down in the first half. They didn’t even need a third down until midway through the fourth quarter, after they’d put four touchdowns on the board.
>> They couldn’t stop the run, either. The Jags rolled up 154 rushing yards, 105 in the second half, and averaged 5.3 per carry. Denard Robinson stepped in after T.J. Yeldon was injured and racked up 75 yards on 14 carries. Yeldon had 62 on 11 before leaving.
>> The Colts have now yielded at least 40 points 10 times in Pagano’s four seasons, including the last two weeks in a row.
>> Special teams got in on the act, allowing Rashad Greene to score untouched on a 73-yard punt return that put the Jaguars up 23-13 early in the third quarter. That was Jacksonville’s third touchdown in a span of 4:12.
>> Where Bortles looked clueless and harried in the first half, he looked like Ben Roethlisberger in the second, completing 9 of 14 for 146 yards and three touchdowns. He also dived over the pile on fourth-and-goal for a rushing touchdown that made it 44-16.
>> The Colts’ offense was unable to finish what few drives it started. They wasted the biggest play of Hasselbeck’s season, a 57-yard completion to T.Y. Hilton, when yet another delay of game penalty stalled the drive inside the 10 and forced a field goal. Two possessions later they marched into the red zone again but again hit a wall and settled for another kick. Their final red-zone trip in the third quarter was wrecked by a holding call on Jonotthan Harrison, and another field goal was the result. The Colts were thus 0-of-3 in the red zone against a Jacksonville defense that entered the game 31st in the league, allowing touchdowns on 68 percent of red-zone possessions.
>> Against a Jacksonville defense that has struggled to generate pressure all season, the Colts’ offensive line was overwhelmed. Good had a particularly rough day against Branch, who seemed to spend as much time in the pocket as Hasselbeck.
>> Hasselbeck was banged-up entering the game and was battered throughout, finally going down for the count as the result of a cheap but not illegal hit. Slowing down as he was heading for the sideline at the end of a scramble early in the fourth quarter, Hasselbeck was shoved from behind by Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith and landed hard, injuring his ribs (and appearing to aggravate last week’s shoulder injury) in the process. There was no flag because Hasselbeck was still inbounds when the hit was delivered, but it was clear he was giving himself up, thus there was no need for any contact.
>> The Colts got another scare when Vontae Davis crashed to the turf holding his knee after a tackle in the second quarter but after a brief time in the bench returned on the next defensive series.
>> The Colts began the game without five starters: Luck, OT Anthony Castonzo, ILB Jerrell Freeman, OLB Erik Walden and CB Greg Toler. Luck missed his fourth consecutive game and sixth overall, Castonzo his third straight, Freeman his second in a row and third overall, Walden his first and Toler his fifth this season and 13th in three years with the Colts. Jalil Brown, re-signed by the Colts this week, started in Toler’s place and Jonathan Newsome stepped in for Walden.