INDIANAPOLIS –For the second straight Sunday, there was a compelling finish to a Colts game in Lucas Oil Stadium.
This time, however, the emotions swung completely the other way when after taking a one-point lead in the final seconds, Indianapolis surrendered an 80-yard touchdown pass in falling to Jacksonville, 22-17.
The elation after a pulsating 23-20 win over Minnesota seven days ago was replaced by heartache, the type that comes with a bitter defeat.
Moments after the loss, Head Coach Chuck Pagano painted a picture of the battle and the resulting locker room.
"It's a devastating loss," said Pagano. "It's one of those deals where you come in the locker room and what are you going to say? (You say), 'Just remember this feeling. Just remember how you feel right now.' There are so many things we can do as a football team, both sides of the ball and special teams, to make it where we don't have to be in that position. If we can come out with the lead that we took into the second half, if we drive down the field and score a touchdown and keep playing…we do that and take care of business, then you put a team away.
"If you don't put teams away in this league, this is what can happen to you. We have a lot of guys who are just really in shock. It's our 24-hour rule. We'll look at the tape like we always do, make the evaluations and get things corrected. We have to move on."
A week ago, the Colts surrendered a 20-6 fourth-quarter lead before winning in the last eight seconds. This week, the Colts moved to a 14-3 halftime lead, a 30-minute span that showed promise for a young team.
Quarterback Andrew Luck tossed scoring passes of 40 and four yards to negate an early Jacksonville lead. The second one came in the final minute and mirrored last week's performance when he directed the team to 10 points in the last two minutes prior to intermission. Defensively, the club held a potent a potent Maurice-Jones Drew to 70 rushing yards.
The second half was a much different story. Rather than capitalizing on a late-score, early-possession situation, Indianapolis committed a penalty and punted. Jones-Drew then burst 59 yards for a touchdown on the first play, cutting the score to 14-10.
The Colts punted on the ensuing possession, then tossed an interception. The Jaguars used the take away to add a field goal. After another Colts punt, Jacksonville took a 16-14 lead with four minutes gone in the final period. That drive was spiced by three Indianapolis penalties before the defense stiffened in its red zone.
The Colts showed resolve by driving to re-take the lead, but a delay penalty on a 31-yard field goal effort by Adam Vinatieri pushed the club back five yards, and he mis-fired to the left with 4:40 to go in the game.
The Colts forced two more punts and took possession with 1:33 remaining. With no timeouts, Luck hit running back Donald Brown for 39 yards to the Jacksonville 28. Three subsequent Brown rushes forced Jacksonville to spend its timeouts, and Vinatieri hit a 37-yard field goal for a 17-16 lead with 56 seconds left.
Missing two regulars in its coverage package due to injuries – Justin King and Vontae Davis – Jacksonville struck quickly. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert hit wide receiver Cecil Shorts over the middle, and Short took the pass the rest of the way for an 80-yard touchdown. It was the 24th touchdown pass of 80-plus yards or more allowed in franchise history.
"We were out of bodies. We make no excuses. Credit Jacksonville," said Pagano. "They made one, we didn't. They didn't have any timeouts. You sit there and evaluate and hindsight's obviously 20-20. We had some guys in there who normally didn't play in those positions. We were in a two-deep coverage concept, and they split us. They made one heck of a play."
Indianapolis did move to the Jacksonville 26 in the waning seconds before two final passes were incomplete.
To Pagano, it was a second half marred by execution problems from every unit. Those problems negated a decent first 30 minutes.
"To play the first half like we played. He (Jones-Drew) got out on us a few times. He had 69 yards at the half. We did a pretty good job to hold him to whatever we held him to in the first half. We had the two-minute drive, scored a touchdown and finished like we finished last week," said Pagano. "Then we came out basically and don't do anything. We can't do anything on offense. (You) hurt yourself with penalties, holding calls. Defensively, you come out the first two series again and give up a 60-yard run, big plays, penalties, knock yourself out, negative-yardage plays. (It was) across the board (in) all three phases."
Pagano is staunch in his approach to basics – run the ball, stop the run, win special teams moments, come out ahead in turnover margin, limit penalties, play 60 minutes. Those were areas that cost Indianapolis.
While the club rushed for 124 yards, 50 came on Luck scrambles. Two touchdown passes were offset by an interception. Indianapolis was flagged 11 times, after having 10 total penalties over the first two games. Jacksonville rushed for 185 yards, including 177 by Jones-Drew. After overcoming a missed field goal with one that provided a late lead, the team yielded a long, deciding completion.
"This one is going to sit in the pit of our stomachs for quite some time," said Pagano. "Obviously, we're going to have to get over it and move on and get better. I'm proud of the guys for playing their tails off and putting us in position to win a game. Adam (Vinatieri) comes back and kicks what you think would be a game-winner. In the NFL, it doesn't matter how many ticks are left on there (the clock) until it reads '0:00,' anything can happen. That's what we found out today."
It was the first home loss and divisional loss for the Colts under Pagano. While it is a setback, the schedule provides 13 more chances following a bye week. Pagano knows his team will be measured by a tough moment. He believes in the club's resolve and that the personnel is up for the challenge.
"Certainly, you don't want to give them (a game)," said Pagano. "You think you have one in your back pocket, and it's gone. It's a division game, a home game, everything. … There ain't no pity party. Adversity will introduce a man to himself, that's what I told them. We have the right guys in the locker room, the players, the coaches. We'll come back from this."
FIRST QUARTER (7:13 remaining)
Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew arrived in town ready to work. He ran the ball five times for 28 yards and caught a pass for 11 on the Jaguars' first drive. However, Robert Mathis' sack on quarterback Blaine Gabbert short-circuited the Jacksonville drive on third down at the Indy 24-yard line. Josh Scobee hit a field goal from 44 yards.Jaguars 3, Colts 0
FIRST QUARTER (3:42 remaining)
Rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton made his first career touchdown catch memorable for Colts fans. He outran Jacksonville's initial coverage, got in position to grab a perfectly thrown pass from Andrew Luck and then outraced Jaguars safety Chris Prosinski to the end zone. It was good for a 40-yard score. Adam Vinatieri booted the extra point.Colts 7, Jaguars 3
SECOND QUARTER (37 seconds remaining)
It was Reggie Wayne's turn to make the big catches for the Colts. His four receptions for 54 yards helped to march Indy downfield as Luck completed 6-of-10 for 71 yards on the drive. Luck connected with Mewelde Moore across the middle for the four-yard touchdown. Vinatieri hit the extra point. Colts 14, Jaguars 3
THIRD QUARTER (12:05 remaining)
Jones-Drew took Gabbert's handoff and burst off right tackle for a 59-yard touchdown on Jacksonville's first play of the third quarter. The run gave him 129 rushing yards in just over a half. Scobee hit the extra point.Colts 14, Jaguars 10
THIRD QUARTER (2:55 remaining)
A nice defensive play set the Jaguars up for a field goal. Linebacker Paul Posluszny intercepted a Luck pass and the visitors returned it 22 yards. Indy's Drake Nevis made a strong defensive play of his own, pressuring Gabbert into an incompletion on third-and-4 at the Colts 29. Scobee's 47-yard field goal pulled the Jaguars within one of the Colts. Colts 14, Jaguars 13
FOURTH QUARTER (11:02 remaining)
Jones-Drew continued his running onslaught, reaching 173 yards for the game. His methodical style helped the Jaguars stage an 11-play, 77-yard drive that consumed 5 minutes, 25 seconds. When it bogged down near the end zone, Scobee connected on a 26-yard field goal to give Jacksonville the lead. Jaguars 16, Colts 14
FOURTH QUARTER (56 seconds remaining)
Vinatieri's 37-yard field goal with 56 seconds remaining sent the Colts up. The kick was set up by a 39-yard reception by Donald Brown. Colts 17, Jaguars 16
FOURTH QUARTER (45 seconds remaining)
An 80-yard pass completion, Gabbert to Cecil Shorts III, proved to be the game winner. Jones-Drew's run for a two-point conversion failed.Jaguars 22, Colts 17