INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What caught our eye from the Indianapolis Colts’ 42-34 loss to the New York Jets Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The loss was their fourth straight and dropped them to 1-5 on the season.
- Aiding, abetting: Let’s cut to the chase. A team with a very small margin for error – that would be the shorthanded Colts – returned home after littering MetLife Stadium with way too many mistakes and missed opportunities. The offense turned the ball over four times, which turned into 20 Jets’ points; Andrew Luck’s receiving corps continued to drop passes at an alarming rate; and two early red-zone trips made possible by defensive takeaways resulted in a pair of Adam Vinatieri field goals, not touchdowns.
“Our defense is doing a decent job of getting that ball away and we’re certainly as an offense not holding up our end of the bargain, and we have to,’’ Luck said in his post-game press conference.
The ugly trend was set early. On the Colts’ first offensive snap, wideout Chester Rogers dropped a Luck pass. On the second, Luck’s screen pass to running back Marlon Mack went through Mack’s hands, was tipped by safety Jamal Adams and intercepted by cornerback Morris Claiborne, who returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.
Twelve seconds into the game, it was Jets 7, Colts 0.
“Just too many mistakes early,’’ Frank Reich said.
Even when they weren’t turning the football over, the Colts weren’t efficient enough. Before things got out of hand, they failed to maximize on takeaways on consecutive Jets’ snaps by Malik Hooker (interception) and Al-Quadin Muhammad (fumble recovery).
The return on the thievery: 21- and 31-yard field goals by Adam Vinatieri. The first point-blank attempt came after the offense wasted a first-and-goal at the 1, and included – that’s right – a dropped pass in the end zone by rookie running back Nyheim Hines.
“You get down to the 1-yard line and can’t get in, that can’t happen,’’ Reich said.
- About those drops:Last week, players insisted they were working diligently at limiting the dropped passes. There had been roughly a dozen in the last two games.
Sunday, there were about five more. Rogers had two more, Hines the killer in the end zone and Zach Pascal another.
“I’ll be concerned about drops when I throw the perfect ball every time I drop back, and I certainly do not do that,’’ Luck said. “We all in a sense have to have short memories when you play this game, the good and the bad (plays).’’
After attempting 121 passes the last two games – the second-most in consecutive games in league history – Luck finished 23-of-43 for 301 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
The 164 passes in three games in the most in team history over a three-game stretch.
Luck’s 186 completions and 288 attempts are the most in NFL history for the first six games of a season. He also extended his streak of games with at least one TD pass to 29, the NFL’s longest active streak.
As for the dropped passes, let’s credit defensive end Jabaal Sheard with one. He was unable to secure a deflected Darnold pass for an interception with the Jets leading 33-27 and attempting to convert a third-and-2 at the Indy 27.
An interception would have set up the Luck-led offense in good field position with more than 9 minutes remaining in a one-possession game. The incompletion allowed Jason Myers to knock down a 45-yard field goal that pushed New York’s lead to 36-27.
- Defense bent, broke:The Jets finished the game by exhausting the scoreboard. Excluding the game-ending kneel downs, their final eight possessions: touchdown, field goal, field goal, touchdown, field goal, field goal, field goal, field goal.
The Colts’ defense was missing several key components – starting linemen Denico Autry and Margus Hunt, and safety Clayton Geathers – and too often failed to get off the field. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold had the best game of his career, which contributed to the Jets dominating time of possession (37:02-22:58).
Look, the offense kept getting in the way. The first turnover was the pick-6 while the other three handed the Jets prime field position at the Indy 43, 22 and 17. On the latter two, the defense limited the damage to field goals.
Still, Darnold picked them apart – 24-of-30, 280 yards, two TDs, one interception – and the Colts had no answer for Jermaine Kearse. He had 7 catches for 71 yards in the first month of the season. Sunday’s yield: 9 catches, 94 yards.
At least work against the run was adequate. After abusing Denver last week (323 yards on 38 carries), the Jets were limited to 107 yards on 36 attempts.
Linebacker Darius Leonard returned after missing the Patriots game with an ankle injury and finished with 9 tackles and a forced fumble.
- At last, a run game:One bright spot on an otherwise dark afternoon was the Colts enjoying some success with their run game. Credit the return of Mack, who had missed the last three games with a hamstring injury.
Mack picked up 89 yards on just 12 attempts, and did most of his damage in the second half. After the break, he piled up 81 yards on eight carries.
“We talked about that at halftime,’’ Reich said. “We just didn’t want to get in a pure pass mode. We came out and he creased a couple of runs and just thought that was important to keep that going.
“He provided a spark there, something positive to build on.’’
- Over, just like that:Just to remind everyone, Vinatieri’s 31-yard field goal at the 11:24 mark of the second quarter pushed the Colts into a 13-10 lead.
Then, a Jets’ onslaught. They scored 13 points over the final 2 minutes, 35 seconds of the second quarter, and came out in the third quarter and needed just 2 minutes, 57 seconds to finish what was 20 unanswered points.
Just like that, a 13-10 deficit mushroomed into a 30-13 lead.
Turnovers fueled the quick turnaround. A lost fumble by Robert Turbin led to Darnold’s 7-yard TD to Terrelle Pryor and, two plays later, a Luck interception led to Myers’ 48-yard field goal. When the offense suffered an ensuing three-and-out with less than 1 minute remaining in the first half, the Jets countered by driving for Myers’ 32-yard field goal as time expired.
Darnold’s 32-yard TD to Chris Herndon early in the third quarter gave the Jets serious separation on the scoreboard.
- Medical update:Running back Robert Turbin did not return after suffering a shoulder injury in the second quarter. Turbin sustained the injury on a failed third-and-1 rushing attempt. Not only did he injure his shoulder on the play, he lost a fumble.
Wide receiver Ryan Grant left the game in the second half with an ankle injury.
In the final minutes, wideout Marcus Johnson had to be helped to the locker room after suffering an injury to his right ankle on his first kickoff return of the season.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.