Well, I woke up this morning and checked to be sure, but yesterday’s awful performance wasn’t a nightmare. The Colts really did get shut out by the Jaguars to lose 6-0 in a game they absolutely had to win.
The offense was bad in every phase, and the coaching left a great deal to be desired as well. I don’t have near enough space to detail all the losers as thoroughly as we probably should, and I’m not sure I have the energy either. As you might expect, this isn’t going to be a very pretty column, so let’s just get into it so I can get all this toxin out of me and never think about this game again.
Talk about a game. Denico Autry came to play, even if almost no one else did. He put up a monster defensive performance, notching 3 sacks, 7 tackles, 4 QB hits, and 2 forced fumbles. He has 6 sacks for the season, despite dealing with injuries that have sidelined him or altered his ability to play at his best for a bit of this season. Considering that Autry was signed as a virtual nobody from Oakland, his impact on the team has been a significant one that is worth recognizing. Autry is a young guy who fits perfectly inside this Colts defensive scheme. Props to him for playing hard in this game.
Honorable Mentions: Jabaal Sheard, Matthew Adams
This was Frank Reich’s worst game as a head coach. As the primary offensive play caller, Reich was unable to make the necessary adjustments to deal with Jacksonville’s excellent coverage, and seemed to struggle to dial up plays to get his receivers open.
The Colts ran the ball just 6 times on first down, opting to pass instead. In theory that had worked against the Jaguars the last time, so it could again. However, in practice it was a miserable failure. Starting out the game that way would have made sense given their success last time with the pass. However, once they saw that it wasn’t effective and that the game was close, it seems like calling a more balanced and less predictable offense would have made more sense.
Reich’s worst calls were in the second quarter when he went for it two different times on 4th and 1. Both attempts failed, and both came well within field goal range. I am all for being aggressive and trying to score touchdowns instead of field goals, but we were not facing the Saints, where you have to score on every drive to even have a prayer. This was the Cody Kessler-led Jaguars. Priority 1 should have been to put points on the board. Getting a lead would have created more urgency by the Jaguars offense, which was being thoroughly outplayed by our defense. Additionally, as we would see, those two field goals would have kept the game at a tie, and the 3rd failed attempt to convert the 4th down in the 2nd half would have provided an opportunity for a 3rd field goal which could have won the game. This was simply poor play calling
To top it all off, the clock at the end of the game was managed poorly, with the team getting back to the line to go very slowly, as well as running a ton of time off the clock before eventually taking a time out. The end result was that the team ran out of time while driving to attempt to score.
It was a bad showing, and a moment to remind ourselves that Frank Reich is doing this for the very first time. For a rookie head coach, he has been remarkably good, but he wasn’t today. I don’t anticipate having to write about Frank Reich being a loser very often.
Castonzo is not alone in getting abused by the Jaguars’ defensive line, but as the most tenured, highest paid, and ostensibly best offensive lineman on the team, he has to be better. He consistently struggled to deal with what was being thrown at him by the Jags and did not put up nearly the kind of performance we’ve expected from him through this season.
The real killer was late in the game when Castonzo blocks down on Calais Campbell and lets Ronnie Harrison get a free hit on Luck when they absolutely have to have a 4th down conversion with 2:34 left in the 4th quarter. We know what this line is capable of, and the Jaguars defense that showed up today is the one that took this team to the AFC Championship game last season. You can’t sleepwalk through a game against these guys, and that is what it looked like Castonzo was doing.
I gave credit to Denico Autry for the job he did, so another one of Chris Ballard’s offseason acquisition deserves credit for his work too. Ryan Grant, the guy who was supposed to be able to provide a number 2 to Hilton’s 1, was a complete non-factor today. He was targeted twice, with one being an egregious drop. The consistent inability of Grant, or really anyone, to get open was a major factor in getting Andrew Luck hit. When Grant was open, he dropped the ball that came his way. Not the kind of contribution the Colts needed.
While Inman has been a solid pickup and contributed reasonably well this season, he was, like Grant, largely not a factor in this game. He was targeted 6 times for just 2 catches and 14 yards. However, it was one of those missed targets that really hurt. On 3rd and 9 from their own 45-yard line, the Colts had an opportunity to get the kind of chunk play they couldn’t all game. Despite pressure, Luck hung in there and aired one out to Inman for what would have been a huge gain. For whatever reason, Inman turned his body the wrong way, and couldn’t get flipped back around right, so instead of the Colts getting a big play to put them in the red zone, they punted.
The Officiating Crew
Look, I know that complaining about the refs is something most every fan base does, and it is worst after a loss, but this was one of the most poorly officiated games I’ve seen in a long time, and it wasn’t biased to one side or the other, it was bad all around.
They missed obvious calls, like when they called T.Y.’s clearly incomplete ball a catch, and they made bad calls frequently, like the roughing the passer call against Matthew Adams who had a great sack in which he clearly used his shoulder to tackle a ducking Kessler.
Their worst work was inserting themselves into the game’s finish and claiming that forward progress had stopped Erik Swoope as he was tackled out of bounds, which should have stopped the clock and give the Colts one more shot at the end zone before time expired. It was not only an incorrect call, but it robbed the Colts of that shot and of a better ending to a really lousy story.
Don’t misunderstand me, the officials aren’t the reason the Colts lost this game. They provided more than enough of those to do that on their own. However, this crew shouldn’t be anywhere near an NFL field without a lot of improvement.