|National Football League|
Colts' next chance to finish job comes against Jags
The Indianapolis Colts know what the problem is but have seemed powerless to do anything about it.
Monday night's come-from-ahead 36-22 loss at Tennessee highlighted the reason Indianapolis is 2-4 and in last place in the AFC South -- its inability to maintain a lead once they build one.
The Colts also coughed up second-half leads in losses to Arizona and Seattle, and blew a 14-point fourth-quarter advantage two weeks ago before an Adam Vinatieri field goal beat San Francisco in overtime. They also barely held off Cleveland in Week 3 after establishing a 31-14 fourth-quarter margin, escaping with a 31-28 verdict.
So when Indianapolis hosts South co-leader Jacksonville on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, it knows what must be done. But can it accomplish the task?
"We've got to play 60 minutes," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "It's a recurring thing, I know that. We've got to figure out, obviously, a way to finish games. Our margin for error is minute and we just continue to kill ourselves."
Their opponent this week knows a little something about killing itself. The Jaguars (3-3) outgained the Los Angeles Rams 389-249 and sacked Jared Goff five times but lost 27-17 because of an epic fail by their special teams.
Jacksonville gave up touchdowns via kickoff return and a blocked punt in the first half. It also missed two field goal attempts and received less-than-booming punts of 18 and 28 yards.
"What do we have to do personnel-wise, scheme, is there anything we can do to get better? Are we putting the players in the best position? What are these issues, have they come up before, have I done a poor job of addressing them? Things of that nature," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said.
"We're looking at that. A lot of times you got someone in there, you got a missed tackle, you got everyone else coming through the ball, you got a pileup going and he squirts out. It's just not acceptable. They shouldn't happen and we understand that."
Jacksonville cut kicker Jason Myers and signed former San Diego kicker Josh Lambo to replace him. Lambo displayed a powerful leg in two seasons with the Chargers but also missed a spate of critical kicks, including three potential game-winners.
"We just wanted to bring a guy in to see if we can get more consistency from that position," Marrone said.
While the Jaguars have special teams issues, the Colts continue life without franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. It was hoping that Luck would be able to return this week, but the Colts had to shut him down because of recurring shoulder soreness.
General manager Chris Ballard said Wednesday that Luck took a cortisone shot and is not going to practice this week.
"I've watched every session of him throwing," Ballard said. "His velocity is good, his motion's good, all that's coming along at a good rate. It's the soreness right now that we're dealing with and that we have to get through."
Jacoby Brissett hasn't been terrible as Luck's replacement by any means, but he is by no means the elite talent Luck is, and opponents have been able to exploit his lack of experience in key spots.
Brissett tossed critical interceptions against Arizona and San Francisco, and failed to make crucial plays in the second half at Tennessee.
If there was a positive for the offense at Tennessee, it was the play of the line. After allowing 18 sacks in the first five games, Indianapolis didn't permit one on Monday night. The Colts also averaged more than four yards per carry, although the inability to get explosive rookie Marlon Mack more than two carries was puzzling.
Jacksonville, on the other hand, has had no problem integrating rookie running back Leonard Fournette into its offense. Fournette has 596 yards and six touchdowns on the ground in six games, starting last week's game with a 75-yard scoring run.
His presence has made the Jaguars the top rushing team in the NFL and taken some pressure off quarterback Blake Bortles. Jacksonville's other big addition, defensive end Calais Campbell, has eight sacks in six games and will be a source of worry for Indianapolis all day.
The Colts' biggest concern, though, will be finding the consistency that has eluded them all year.
"We have to hit the reset button," safety Darius Butler said. "We have a short week. We have another division game at home and they all count a little bit more now. We have to win and we have to keep winning."
Updated October 19, 2017