INDIANAPOLIS — It’ll be a footnote in the latest season-opening failure by the Indianapolis Colts, but that doesn’t lessen the weirdness of the second touchdown of DeForest Buckner’s career.
“It was nuts, actually,’’ Buckner said Sunday afternoon.
It started and ended with Buckner.
Late in the third quarter, Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence sat in the shotgun, facing a first-and-20 at his own 36.
Buckner was in his usual three-point stance at his typical tackle spot, then, very unusual things happened.
He used a swim move to skirt past left guard Ben Bartch. Buckner used his long reach to put Lawrence in a bear hug, which forced Lawrence to fumble with the football lurching forward.
Many fans at Lucas Oil Stadium and most players believed it was an incomplete pass. The football was casually picked up by Jaguars’ running back Tank Bigsby. Immediately, linebacker Zaire Franklin punched it out of Bigsby’s hands from behind.
More weirdness ensued.
Although few players responded, Buckner didn’t hear the whistle, so he scooped it up, found an escort of teammates and beat offensive tackle Anton Harrison to the left pylon for a 26-yard touchdown.
It was his first TD as a Colt and second in the NFL. Buckner returned a fumble recovery 12 yards for a TD against Seattle in 2019 while with the San Francisco 49ers.
“Didn’t hear the whistle blow,’’ Buckner said. “I got up and was trying to figure out what was going on, and then I just see Zaire or somebody punching the ball out, and in the back of my mind I’m like, ‘I didn’t hear a whistle.’
“Everyone is like, ‘Pick it up!’ So I scoop it up, and I’m running, and all of a sudden, I see 77 (Harrison), he took a great angle and I give him a stiff arm, reach over the pylon and got the score.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m probably going to get yelled out, ‘No reaching at the pylon.’ It could have been a touchback or whatever. I saw my opportunity and had to take it.’’
Solid day for the D, until late
The defense produced two takeaways — Buckner’s fumble return touchdown and Tony Brown’s interception — and had two sacks of Lawrence. It limited Jacksonville to 3-of-12 on third-down conversions and 1-of-3 on fourth down.
But the defense buckled late.
The Jaguars put the game away with two TDs in a 1-minute, 6-second stretch in the fourth quarter.
Bigsby gave Jacksonville a 24-21 lead at the 5:14 mark with a 1-yard run. Two plays after Tyson Campbell intercepted an Anthony Richardson pass, Travis Etienne broke loose for a 26-yard TD with 4:08 remaining.
“Just beating ourselves,’’ Buckner said. “We had a couple of plays where we had some misfits and little things like that.
“Obviously, Etienne got that bounce-back outside that last run and score, little things like that.
“We just got to be cleaner, especially playing at home.’’
No run game
The Colts were without Jonathan Taylor (PUP) and his top backup, Zack Moss (forearm). Rookie Evan Hull was forced from the game in the third quarter with a knee injury.
And the run game suffered.
Indy finished with 65 yards on 26 attempts, and Richardson led the way with 40 yards on 10 attempts.
Running backs combined for 25 yards on 16 attempts. That’s 1.6 yards per carry.
Deon Jackson managed just 14 yards on 13 attempts. That’s the second-worst outing by a Colts’ running back with at least 12 attempts in the Indy era. Rodney Culver had 14 yards on 14 carries in 1992.
Shaquille Leonard returned for the first time since week 9 of last year. He’s been recovering from a second surgery on his back.
Leonard finished with eight tackles, including one for a loss.
“It felt amazing just to get back out there after all that I’ve been through,’’ he said. “Eager, ready to get back out there, now that the time has come. It was a blessing, very thankful to be able to go back out there and play with the guys.
“This was big, just to go back out there and have some contact. It was definitely a big moment for me to come out here and test to see where I am at.’’
Along with losing Hull, the Colts saw tight end Drew Ogletree forced from the game with a concussion.
This and that
Franklin led the Colts with 18 tackles, including 10 solos.
Buckner and Kwity Paye had sacks of Lawrence.
Michael Pittman Jr. led the Colts with eight receptions, 97 yards and one touchdown.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter/X at @mchappell51.