INDIANAPOLIS – Two possessions, one right after the other, presented two opportunities lost that ultimately proved the undoing of the Indianapolis Colts in their setback to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The defeat dropped the Colts to 0-10 heading into the bye week, while Jacksonville improved to 3-6. Indianapolis resumes the pursuit of its first victory on November 27 at home against the Carolina Panthers.
On an afternoon when the defense turned in an otherwise solid effort, limiting to the Jaguars to opponent season-lows in total yards (251) and points, one mistake helped tip the balance.
With the game tied 3-3 midway through the third period, the Colts had the Jaguars stopped when Robert Mathis swooped in on third-and-11 to sack Blaine Gabbert for a five-yard loss, which would have set up fourth down at the Jacksonville 41-yard line. But defensive end Tyler Brayton was flagged for illegal hands to the face, a five-yard penalty and automatic first down that kept the drive alive.
"When it rains, it pours, but you can't hang your head on that," said Mathis. "You've got to keep playing."
The Jaguars took full advantage of the second life, completing a march that covered 16 plays, 86 yards and consumed nine minutes, 40 seconds for the game's first touchdown, an 11-yard pass from Gabbert to Jarrett Dillard.
"Close games, there's always going to be a look at certain things that you consider to be very pivotal but, that one play, we had opportunities to stop them later on in that drive and didn't get it done," said Head Coach Jim Caldwell. "It doesn't always boil down to that one particular play. Any time that we have opportunities to possess the ball and we don't do it, that's tough."
The Jaguars' drive was the longest in terms of plays and time consumed allowed by the Colts this season, accounting for one-third of their first downs (six-of-18) and 34 percent of their total yards (86-of-251). The rest of the afternoon the Jaguars averaged just 3.4 yards on their 48 plays and did not produce a drive longer than 50 yards.
"It gets frustrating because we know we could've gotten off the field," said cornerback Jerraud Powers. "Again, that's another situation where we're hurting ourselves. We had a couple of penalties on third down where we had stops and they kept the drive going. We just can't shoot ourselves in the foot."
On the Colts' next possession, the circumstances were reversed. They had a long drive appear to come to an abrupt halt when William Middleton intercepted Curtis Painter's pass at the Jaguars' 16-yard line and returned it to the 32.
But from the coach's booth high above the field, assistant Jim Bob Cooter noticed the Jaguars lined up with 12 men on the field and urged Caldwell to challenge the play. He did, the officials agreed and instead of a turnover, a five-yard penalty was assessed to the Jaguars and the Colts had a first down at the Jacksonville 41.
They could not take advantage of their opportunity, however, as three plays later Painter was intercepted again, this time by linebacker Paul Posluszny at the Jacksonville 21-yard line.
"It was big, obviously," Caldwell said, "and obviously we didn't take advantage of it."
That proved to be Painter's final pass of the game as Dan Orlovsky came in and promptly fumbled while being sacked at the Colts' 11-yard line, setting up Jacksonville's clinching score.
"I'm still just waiting for that game when all three phases put it together," said Powers. "One week, the offense is doing a tremendous job and the defense is not. The next week the defense is doing a decent job and the offense is not or special teams are not.
"I'm still waiting for that game when we put it together in all three phases because we keep shooting ourselves in the foot. I mean, it's evident; we get things going, get momentum and defensively, offensively or special teams, something just happens where we hurt ourselves. We tip our hats to the opponent because they make plays when they had to make plays but at the end of the day it's us more so than anything else."