Colts notebook: Team sinks to 1-3 and is on the brink once again
LONDON, England – What caught our eye during the Indianapolis Colts’ 30-27 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at Wembley Stadium:
Where’s this headed? So much for building on the beat-the-clock win over the Chargers. So much for the Colts using that momentum to take an authoritative first step into the AFC South.
The end result of their 4,000-mile business trip was another mistake-prone loss, this one to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Too many dropped passes (at least 4), two many penalties (7 for 78 yards), too many missed opportunities to overcome (the final the failed fourth-and-1 with 1:36 to play). Stop us if you’ve heard this before.
The Colts now find themselves on the brink once again. They’re 1-3 for the first time since 2011 – certainly you remember how that turned out – and only the third time since 1998. Peyton Manning’s rookie season got off to an 0-4 start and finished 3-13.
It’s worth reminding everyone the Colts chose not to take their bye following the trip across the pond. Players are supposed to be back in Indy in the 2-3 o’clock range Monday morning and be at the team complex later in the afternoon. They’re off Tuesday and back at it Wednesday in preparation for Sunday’s game with the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Bears, by the way, defeated Detroit 17-14 in Chicago Sunday for their first victory.
Where’s Frank? Maybe we’re still spoiled by long-time offensive coordinator Tom Moore, who often stuck with his ground game even when the Colts trailed and time was in short supply.
That’s why we totally disagreed with coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s personnel grouping when the Andrew Luck-led offense took the field for what promised to be its last realistic chance of chasing down the Jaguars. The Colts trailed 30-27, took possession at their own 20 with 2 minutes, 31 seconds remaining.
Luck was joined in the backfield by rookie running back Josh Ferguson. Frank Gore, who would move into the No. 10 all-time slot in rushing during the game, was on the sidelines with nothing to do but hold his helmet.
Did Gore want to be on the field? Even if Chudzinski opted not to run him, he at least offered the threat of it.
“I’m a football player, man,’’ Gore said. “We’ve got other great players on this team. It was my coach’s decision. I know the guys who are in for me are going to get the job done.’’
Asked again if he wanted to be on the field for the game-deciding drive, Gore remained diplomatic.
“I’m a football player,’’ he said. “I want to do whatever it takes for my team.’’
Ferguson, undrafted out of Illinois, has emerged as the third-down back in hurry-up situations. He’s no threat as rusher (three carries, a minus-2 yards against the Jaguars) and so-so as a blocker, but has been occasionally effective as a receiver. Sunday, he shared the team lead with seven catches, but for just 33 yards.
While Gore watched anxiously from the sideline, Ferguson caught one pass for a minus-1 yard.
And as everyone knows, the drive stalled when Luck’s fourth-and-1 pass to tight end Dwayne Allen fell incomplete with 1:36 to play.
Gore effective: Speaking of Gore, he continued to climb the NFL’s career rushing charts, and passed some elite names in the process.
By rushing 16 times for 68 yards, Gore pushed his career total to 12,293 and moved into the No. 10 slot. He leap-frogged Marcus Allen (12,243), Edgerrin James (12,246) and Marshall Faulk (12,279).
Next in line: Jim Brown (12,312).
“Doesn’t matter,’’ Gore said. “That’s something you worry about when the season’s over.’’
Young O-line: Back injuries kept right tackle Joe Reitz and right guard Denzelle Good out of the game. Interior backup Jon Harrison missed the game after undergoing an emergency appendectomy last week.
That meant three rookies started along the offensive line: center Ryan Kelly, right guard Austin Blythe and right tackle Joe Haeg. It was Blythe’s first career start and Haeg’s second. He started at right guard last week against the Chargers.
Not surprisingly, the results were mixed. Gore averaged 4.3 yards on 16 carries, but Luck suffered a career-high six sacks and was hit another 13 times while throwing. That pushed his season total to 15 sacks in four games. And that’s on pace for – brace yourself – 60.
Even so, the QB appreciated what the offensive line offered.
“They fought their butts off,’’ Luck said. “By no means was it perfect, by anybody on offense, you guys saw that. But they fought their butts off. They did a helluva job against a really good front seven.
“And because of them we’re still in the game (late).’’
Penalties piling up: The Colts entered the game having been penalized 23 times for 205 yards, and things didn’t improve. They were flagged seven times for 78 yards, and five resulted in Jacksonville first downs.
We won’t list all seven, but it’s worth noting three aided Jacksonville’s final drive at the end of the first half. First, rookie safety T.J. Green was penalized 15 yards for pushing tight end Neal Sterling well out of bounds following an incomplete pass. Then, cornerback Antonio Cromartie gave Jacksonville a pair of first downs while defending Allen Robinson: 12 yards for interference, 5 yards and a first-and-goal at the 8 for holding.
Robinson also beat Cromartie twice on the drive for 5- and 15-yard receptions. Jason Myers’ 22-yard field goal as time expired gave the Jaguars a 17-6 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the impact of a Zach Kerr sack of Blake Bortles was essentially negated when rookie end Curt Maggitt was penalized for hitting Bortles late.
“We’ve got some young guys out there that are learning on the run, but you can’t have the penalties that we have,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said.
This and that: Adam Vinatieri knocked down 53- and 49-yard field goals to push his streak of successful attempts to 33. That’s the NFL’s longest active streak and two shy of tying his personal best. . . . Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett had one catch, but it was a big one – a 64-yard touchdown. On the season he has nine catches for 215 yards, a 23.9 average gain. . . . Rookie wide receiver Chester Rogers entered the game with zero career catches. He exited with two catches for 39 yards. . . . Linebacker Erik Walden picked up his team-best fourth sack of the season. . . . Akeem Ayers had his first sack as a Colt and Zach Kerr and Hassan Ridgeway shared a third sack of Bortles. . . . Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was credited with a team-high six tackles.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.