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Five Things Learned: Colts-Jaguars (Week 13)

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, left, and Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich chat on the field before an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Indianapolis Colts fell to 6-6 on the season Sunday with their 6-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field.

In a game that was a complete reversal from the last time these two teams got together just three weeks ago — a 29-26 victory for Indianapolis in which the Colts scored 29 first-half points and then held off a furious Jacksonville rally over the final two quarters — Sunday’s matchup was a defensive slugfest, as both offenses struggled to get anything going all afternoon.

But, in the end, Jacksonville was able to do just enough to put two field goals through the uprights, and the Colts’ impressive five-game win streak is now a thing of the past.

“Tough loss,” Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters after the game. “We came down here and knew we were going to get their best effort. We knew we were going up against a top-five defense. We played hard but we just didn’t execute the way we needed to.”

Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars:

• SHUT OUT: It’s probably safe to say the Jaguars’ defense had some pride on the line on Sunday against the Colts. Just three weeks ago, the Indy offense simply embarrassed Jacksonville’s defense, particularly in the first half, as the Jaguars looked lost — and not composed at all — on their way to allowing 29 first-half points. But, boy, were the Jaguars tuned in on that side of the ball on Sunday. Up front, Jacksonville looked more like the “Sacksonville” unit that took the league by storm last season, as it was in Andrew Luck’s face all day with three sacks and nine total quarterback hits. The secondary, led by a banged up Jalen Ramsey, was just as good, however, and the Jaguars would knock down seven Luck passes and allowed just one play of 20 or more yards the entire afternoon. With just 265 yards of total offense on the day, the Colts know they have to be more consistent in this area if they want to continue making a playoff push, but the defense Indy played today was certainly on a mission, too.

• DENICO DOMINATES: What an afternoon for Colts defensive tackle/end Denico Autry, who put in the best all-around performance of his career, and helped lead an Indy defensive unit that certainly more than did its part to keep the Colts in the ballgame. Autry not only had seven total tackles on the day, which is the second-best single-game performance of his career, but he was buzzing around Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler all afternoon, as he pulled him down for a career-best three sacks to go along with three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. In doing so, Autry became the first Colts player to record three sacks in a game since Robert Mathis on Sept. 29, 2013, while he also became just the seventh player in the NFL since at least 1994 to have registered at least 3.0 sacks, at least 3.0 tackles for loss and at least two forced fumbles in the same game. Autry joins the Denver Broncos’ Von Miller as the second player to accomplish the feat this season.

• FOURTH DOWN WOES: Who knows how Sunday’s game could’ve gone had the Colts not went 0-fo-3 on their fourth-down attempts? There were certainly a couple biggies that could’ve turned the tide:

» Early in the second quarter, the Colts were gifted a first down at the Jacksonville 5-yard line after a roughing the long snapper penalty on what would’ve been a made field goal by Adam Vinatieri. But after two incomplete passes, Andrew Luck was able to find running back Nyheim Hines for a four-yard gain to the one. Wanting six in this situation instead of three, however, Frank Reich elected to go for it, but running back Jordan Wilkins was stuffed short of the goal line on a shovel pass play. Turnover on downs.

» On the Colts’ very next drive, which began with great field position at the Jaguars’ 40, Indy could only muster nine yards on their first three plays, and faced, again, a 4th and 1, this time at the Jacksonville 31. Luck attempted a handoff to tight end Eric Ebron, and he was not only stuffed, but he fumbled the ball while diving to try to make a play. Linebacker Myles Jack recovered it at his 40-yard line.

» The third fourth-down attempt hurt the most, however. The Colts finally looked like they were getting a little momentum on their side with a drive that started with 5:56 left in the fourth quarter at the Indy 27. But the Jacksonville defense tightened up once Indy got closer to the red zone. On 3rd and 7, Luck found Ebron for a six-yard gain, setting up yet another 4th-and-1 attempt with 2:38 remaining. Luck, lined up under center for the first time in this nine-play drive, didn’t hand it off, and looked like he was trying to find a receiver to his right when safety Ronnie Harrison, who looked untouched off the left edge, brought the quarterback down for a huge sack and a turnover on downs.

• PLAYOFF PICTURE: This Colts loss certainly stings, but the team still remains in the “In the Hunt” category when it comes to the AFC playoff picture. The Houston Texans took care of the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, extending their win streak to nine games and moving to 9-3. So while the Colts hope to leave Houston next Sunday with a win to keep things interesting, the AFC South Division title seems, at least at this point, unlikely for Indy. The Colts’ best hope will be the sixth and final seed. The Baltimore Ravens also won on Sunday, however, to take a one-game lead over the Colts and three other teams sporting 6-6 records (the Denver Broncos, the Miami Dolphins and the Tennessee Titans) for that spot. The reality for Indianapolis is this: go 1-0 every week from here on out. It sounds cliché, but there’s no other realistic approach to take.

• NOTES OF INTEREST:

— Tight end Eric Ebron had 81 yards on 10 receptions. His 10 receptions tied a single-game career-high set on 12/10/17.

— The Colts’ defense is now the only team in the NFL to have forced a turnover in every game this season.

— Rigoberto Sanchez had season highs in punts (six), yards (298) and average (49.7) He also had three punts inside the 20. Sanchez entered the game ranked second in the NFL in net yardage.

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