JACKSONVILLE -- In position to blow the game open, the Indianapolis Colts instead gave up a strip sack for a touchdown and then fell apart, leaving their place at the top of the AFC South in serious danger.
The Colts ceded control of the game to the Jacksonville Jaguars when they gave up 20 straight points, stretching from late in the first half into the third quarter in their 51-16 loss at EverBank Field.
The Colts dominated the game in the first half, even getting a touchdown from linebacker Robert Mathis, while the offense sputtered along. The game completely changed when the Colts had a chance to extend their 13-3 lead, but Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch stripped the ball from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.
The Jaguars continued their success on their first series of the third quarter, getting an 80-yard touchdown from Blake Bortles to Allen Hurns. Wait, it got worse. Rashard Greene returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown to complete a 20-0 run by the Jaguars to take a 23-13 lead.
Game over for the Colts. And if you're keeping track at home, the Colts were outscored 48-3 after being up 13-3.
What it means: The loss ended the Colts' 16-game winning streak against AFC South opponents. All the eyes in the Colts organization will shift to watching the New England Patriots face the Houston Texans on Sunday night. The Colts, despite all their issues with New England in the past, need to become Patriots cheerleaders and hope they can help keep Indianapolis stay on top of the AFC South by beating Houston.
What were they thinking: Colts coach Chuck Pagano showed a lack of confidence in his defense when he declined a tripping penalty on the Jaguars on third down that might have pushed Jacksonville out of field goal range on the opening series of the game. Instead, the Jaguars got a 46-yard field goal from unreliable kicker Jason Myers.
One reason to panic: The Colts' special teams coverage unit has been brutal this season. They gave up a punt return for a touchdown for the second straight week when Greene returned Pat McAfee’s punt 73 yards for the touchdown a series after Bortles threw the 80-yard touchdown to Hurns. The Colts have given up three punt returns for touchdowns this season. Their best defense has been McAfee’s ability to down the ball deep in the opponent’s end of the field.
Ouch: Hasselbeck first left the game for several snaps after taking a hard hit from two Jacksonville defenders on a completion to Hilton. Hasselbeck left for good when he injured his ribs after getting shoved out of bounds on the Jacksonville sideline on a scramble play.