Here are the circumstances under which it is acceptable to lose 6-0 to the Jacksonville Jaguars: The game takes place in 2017 and there is also a foot of snow on the ground. Neither of those applied on Sunday when the Indianapolis Colts, led by a resurgent Andrew Luck and the best offensive line in football, traveled to Jacksonville to play a 3-8 Jaguars team in the middle-to-late stages of a full core meltdown. It was a warm day. And yet the Colts lost this game 6-0.
If this game is evidence of anything, it’s that not scoring on the 2018 Jaguars requires playing football with a degree of fear and anxiety that no NFL team should ever feel while playing against Cody Kessler. The Jaguars’ defense did play well in this game, and even displayed some of the fearsomeness that just about got them to the Super Bowl last season, but the Colts should have easily won the day. In the process of not-winning it they became not just an ass team, but living, losing proof that there is one thing that smells worse than old-fashioned farty football: scared football.
We’ll start here, at the end of a second-quarter drive on which the Colts came a yard away from the win:
The Colts’ journey to this moment was remarkably stupid. That final play was the 17th of the drive, and capped off a 7:50 march down the field during which the Jaguars did everything they possibly could to shepherd the Colts into the end zone. It started with what should have been a three-and-out, but after Andrew Luck threw an incomplete pass to tight end Eric Ebron on third-and-5, Jaguars safety Ronnie Harrison got himself a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct because he couldn’t stop talking shit to Ebron.
The Colts took advantage, driving all the way down to the Jags’ 11-yard line before settling for a field goal attempt on fourth down. That kick was good, and the Colts had a 3-0 lead... but wait! Another penalty! Some dipshit on the Jaguars bowled over the long snapper while trying to block the field goal, gifting the Colts a fresh set of downs.
So there were the Colts, with a first-and-goal at the Jaguars’ five-yard line, armed with Luck under center and a mean, brawny offensive line that has spent the entire season whooping opposing front sevens up and down the field. Luck ran a panicked bootleg on first down for some reason and threw the ball away; he took the next snap out of the shotgun, rolled out again to the right side, and threw the ball out the back of the end zone; third down brought yet another snap out of the shotgun and a short pass down to the one-yard line. On fourth-and-1, the Colts had an easy choice to make: just hand the damn ball to Marlon Mack and have him ride Quenton Nelson’s bountiful ass into the end zone. Instead, they did this:
And then they just kept doing shit like this! On the very next drive, the Colts faced a fourth-and-1 at Jacksonville’s 35-yard line, and instead of running it up the gut to gain one yard and extend the drive, they handed a jet sweep(?) to Ebron(???) who got lit up in the backfield and fumbled the ball:
Here’s yet another fourth-and-1 play, capping off what should have been a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. The Colts had gotten all the way down to the Jacksonville 19, and once again decided that they weren’t good enough to run the ball for one measly yard:
What a bunch of chickenshits! The Jaguars’ front seven isn’t even anything to be all that afraid of this season. They are surrendering 108 rushing yards per game and 4.1 yards per attempt, two numbers that put them right alongside plenty of other mediocre NFL rushing defenses.
The Colts would get one more chance to win the game after getting the ball back at their own 15 with 1:51 remaining and no timeouts left. What ensued was an oddly slow and casual two-minute drill that went 60 yards straight down the field and ate up every second of the clock. It ended with tight end Erik Swoope catching a short pass near the sideline but failing to keep his forward progress while getting out of bounds:
The Colts had to suffer the indignity and helplessness of watching the clock tick down to zero while Tom Coughlin hooted and hollered from on high:
It was the ending the Colts deserved. Handing a sweep to the tight end and refusing to run the damn football at the goal line are the types of plays that overmatched teams run when trying to catch a superior opponent by surprise. Those are the kinds of things a team does when Patrick Mahomes or Jared Goff is on the other side of the ball and the situation requires getting a little crazy in order to keep pace.
All the Colts had to keep up with was 6 points and 211 total yards of offense from the Jaguars. Indianapolis actually out-gained Jacksonville by 54 yards and had eight more first downs, but when the big moments came they flinched again and again. Three times the Colts came face to face with a defense against which they’d scored 29 points just three weeks ago, needing just to gain the one yard that would have likely won them the game. All three times they tried to get cute, and all three times they failed. It’s hard damn work to go through an entire NFL game against a bad team with nothing left to play for and not score even a single touchdown; pulling off that trick requires both playing stupid and playing scared. The Colts did plenty of both.