The Indianapolis Colts have lost 25 games in four years under head coach Chuck Pagano, which isn't a bad number as they have posted a 42-25 record (.627). During that span, however, the Colts have lost just six games to teams that finished with a losing record (or, this year, teams that currently have a losing record) and have lost six games by 30+ points. The game against the Jaguars today added a number to both of those categories as the Colts lost 51-16 at Jacksonville.
There was the 35 point loss to the Patriots in 2012. There was the 30 point loss to the Rams in 2013. Then the 35 point loss to the Cowboys in 2014 and a 38 point loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game that same season. Then this year, in back to back weeks, the Colts lost by 35 points to the Steelers and by 35 points to the Jaguars. And honestly, all things considered, I feel comfortable calling this the worst loss in the Chuck Pagano era.
"We've had some tough, tough losses over the course of four years," Pagano said postgame. "This one stings. This is tough. Becasue we started the way we wanted to start, we had things going the way we wanted them to go, but then it got out of hands. And you can't give up big plays, turnover, fumble for a touchdown, 80-yard pass, whatever it was, punt return for a touchdown. Again, you're not going to win. I don't care where it's at, you're not going to win games doing that. It's tough, but we'll get through it."
Point-wise, it's tied for the second-worst loss under Pagano, behind only last year's AFC Championship game. And while that loss was more significant and on a much bigger stage, it was to the number one seed in the AFC playoffs, the 12-4 Patriots, who would go on to win the Super Bowl - and the Colts lost on the road in one of the toughest environments in football by 38 points. Today, the Colts lost to the now 5-8 Jaguars in a key AFC South meeting to break the Colts' NFL record streak of division wins, losing on the road by 35 points. Considering that it was also the second week in a row in which the Colts lost by 35 points, this is without a doubt the worst stretch the Colts have been on. Remember when they never lost back to back games? They just lost back to back games by 35 points each, getting outscored 96-26.
However you look at it, the Colts stunk. Their defense was dominated in the second half, missing tackles, taking bad angles, and whatever else you can think of for a bad defensive performance. The offense couldn't get much done whatsoever, managing just three field goals on the day. The special teams unit gave up a punt return touchdown for the second straight week. The coaching staff didn't help the team whatsoever. And it all added up to allow the Jaguars to score 51 points, the most they have ever scored in a regular season game in franchise history and the second-most in any game period.
Give credit to Chuck Pagano for this: the Colts are in the playoff picture much more than they should be without Andrew Luck, so give Pagano credit for having the Colts in the place where they have a chance at all. But it's hard to watch this game - or last week's game - and think that the Colts should do anything but blow things up. That means Pagano and that means general manager Ryan Grigson, too. There's still three more games and the Colts have a massive one coming up next week against the Texans, but unless things magically change and the Colts go on the most improbable Super Bowl run in league history, it'll be hard to make a case against blowing it all up. Just watch Sunday's game against the Jaguars and you'll see why.
The Colts entered the game needing a win to stay alive in the AFC South and perhaps have a chance to clinch next week. Instead, it's very uncertain whether they will even stay in first place at the end of the day after getting embarrassed by the Jaguars. The Colts lost 51-16, and while the 35-point margin of defeat wasn't officially the worst of the Chuck Pagano era, I'm comfortable calling this game the worst loss the Colts have suffered under Pagano.
Asked after the game if Pagano would use the word embarrassing to describe his team's performance, he refused. "No," he said. "No. Never." Pressed a little further, he got testy about it. "You don't know this group," he said, to which a reporter responded that he knew the scores "It's ok. You don't know this group," Pagano responded. While the head coach wouldn't call his team's performance embarrassing, however, everyone else can see it like it is: the Colts were thoroughly dominated in every aspect of the game on the road against a division opponent with a losing record in a game the Colts really needed to win for the worst loss in the Chuck Pagano era. If that's not embarrassing to the team, then I don't know what is.