INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What caught our eye from the Indianapolis Colts’ 38-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at TIAA Bank Stadium.
First things first: And that would be where the Colts are positioned in the first round of the April 23 NFL Draft. They won by losing. They entered Sunday at 16th overall and shimmied up to 13th with their fast-fade against the Jaguars.
Also, the 7-9 Colts finish third in the AFC South. That means their 2020 home opponents are: Tennessee, Houston, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Minnesota and the New York Jets. Next season’s road trips: Tennessee, Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit and the Raiders.
Oh, the game: What an appropriate end to a strange season. After opening 5-2 and fueling hopes of back-to-back playoff appearances, the Colts lost seven of their last nine. Their 7-9 mark is just the franchise’s third losing record since 2001. Remember 2-14 in 2011 and 4-12 in ’17?
And after settling into a 20-16 halftime lead, the Colts came completely unraveled against a 10-loss Jaguars bunch. They were buried under an avalanche of 25 unanswered points – they led 20-13 with 39 seconds remaining in the second quarter – and embarrassed by 30 minutes of offensive ineptitude. It marked the fourth time this season the Colts lost after leading at the half.
In the first half, the Jacoby Brissett-led offense piled up 229 yards and 13 first downs on 35 plays. Brissett wasn’t prolific, but at least efficient (9-of-14, 122 yards). The second-half yield: 20 plays, 46 yards, four first downs.
“The first half I just felt like on offense we were hummin’,’’ Frank Reich said in his postgame press conference. “We were running it. We were throwing it. Just everything seemed to be working.’’
“It felt like we literally couldn’t make a first down,’’ he said.
Brissett was especially ineffective in the second half: 3-of-11, 40 yards. He was under increased pressure and lost a pair of fumbles in a 2-minute stretch of the fourth quarter. Calais Campbell returned the first 8 yards for a touchdown. A 24-20 deficit quickly morphed into a 38-20 hole.
The turning points: The Colts trailed 24-20 with just under 10 minutes remaining, but were pinned deep – first-and-10 at their own 5. After a second-down sack, Brissett again was pressured on third down. He looked for room to his right, but had the football knocked from his hands by Yannick Ngokoue. Calais Campbell picked up the loose ball and returned it 8 yards for a TD.
Four plays and less than 2 minutes later, Brissett again lost a fumble while being sacked by Taven Bryan. Given a short field – possession at the Indy 34 – Minshew capitalized with an 18-yard TD to Westbrook.
“I can’t make those mistakes at those times,’’ Brissett said.
Not enough D: The Jaguars were without star running back Leonard Fournette and reports surfaced coach Doug Marrone might not return for 2020, but did anyone notice? Their first six possessions: field goal, field goal, touchdown, interception, field goal, touchdown. The Colts took a 20-13 lead on Chase McLaughlin’s 50-yard field goal with 39 seconds remaining in the second quarter, but that left enough time for Gardner Minshew II to get the Jaguars in position for Josh Lambo’s answering 56-yarder.
Jacksonville took the lead for good – no one really expected that to be the case at the time – by taking the first possession of the third quarter and chewing up 80 yards on 11 plays. Minshew’s 3-yard TD toss to rookie back Ryquell Armstead and 2-point conversion to DeDe Westbrook dropped the Colts into a 24-20 hole that would get so much deeper.
Speaking of Minshew, the sixth-round draft pick was more than the Colts could handle. It was like the second-coming of Drew Brees. He completed 27-of-39 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He wore the Colts out with check-down throws and mixed in some shots down the field.
The 38 points, by the way, were a season-high by the Jaguars.
In four of the last five games, the Colts gave up 38, 34, 38 and 31 points. The outlier: 6 points to Carolina.
Window dressing: There were a few highlights from a comprehensive team undressing.
The Colts started the same offensive line all 16 games for the first time since 2000. The lineup: left tackle Anthony Castonzo, left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Mark Glowinski, right tackle Braden Smith.
They rushed for 132 yards, upping their season total to 2,130. That’s the Colts’ first 2,000-yard season since 1994 and the ninth-most in franchise history.
Marlon Mack finished his third season with 1,091 yards. That’s the most since Edgerrin James’ piled up 1,506 yards in 2005.
Darius Leonard came up with his fifth interception of the season, the most by a Colts’ linebacker since Cato June had five in 2005. It’s tied for the third-most by a Colts’ ‘backer in team history. Stan White holds the record with eight in 1975.
Chase McLaughlin proved to be a solid replacement for injured Adam Vinatieri. He converted 16-of-17 kicks: 5-of-6 field-goal attempts and all 11 PATs.
Linebacker Anthony Walker finished with a career-high 16 tackles.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.