Jaguars' run defense melts down again, damaging playoff hopes

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Jacksonville Jaguars’ playoff chances got knocked around pretty good on Sunday -- almost as bad as they got knocked around on defense.

The Jaguars just couldn’t stop Indianapolis’ ground game in a 33-13 loss at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts ran for 264 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. They didn’t do anything fancy, either: They lined up and manhandled the Jaguars’ defensive front.

There were huge holes for Marlon Mack (116 yards) and Jonathan Williams (109 yards), and when there weren’t holes, the Jaguars struggled to tackle. Mack whipped out a spin move to escape Tre Herndon and Najee Goode on his 13-yard TD run in the most egregious example. It was similar to what happened against Carolina, and after that game, the Jaguars' defensive players said it was their inability to stay in their gaps that was the main reason for giving up 285 yards.

When it happens once, it’s an aberration. Twice is a problem, especially with the Jaguars facing Derrick Henry, Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman and Mack (again) in the coming weeks. The Jaguars have already experienced what it’s like to have Henry run wild -- the 99-yard TD run last year in Nashville -- so figuring out a fix this week is critical.

Give the Jaguars credit, though. After the debacle against Carolina, they held Alvin Kamara to 44 yards, Joe Mixon to 2, and Le’Veon Bell to 23 in the next three games. A similar rebound -- which will require a week of tackling drills and gap integrity -- is a must if the Jaguars (4-6) are to salvage any hope of getting a playoff spot.

Biggest hole in the game plan: Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo must have gotten caught up in the return of Nick Foles, because the Jaguars pretty much ignored Leonard Fournette in the first half. Fournette had just five carries -- two in the second quarter -- and two catches in the first 30 minutes. Granted, the Jaguars didn’t have any long drives in the first half, but he had success when he ran it (4.8 yards per carry), so that wasn’t the reason he was so minimally involved. The Jaguars used Ryquell Armstead in the first half more than they have all season (he had one carry), too. Maybe that was an attempt to keep Fournette fresh because he played 89 percent of the offensive snaps in the first nine games.

But Fournette is the key to the offense. He entered the game sixth in the NFL in rushing (831 yards), and while it’s understandable that the Jaguars wouldn’t give him carries after falling behind by 17 points in the third quarter, there’s no excuse for Fournette to not get a lot of work in the first half when the game was close. Fournette has to be the focal point of the offense regardless of which quarterback plays.

QB breakdown: Foles started hot (5-of-6 for 72 yards and a TD), but he looked like a quarterback who hadn’t played in two months after that. He underthrew multiple receivers, including one into double coverage to DJ Chark that was intercepted late in the first half, and was a little off-target on others. Expectations that Foles would look sharp after the long layoff were unfair and unrealistic. It will take him a bit to get his timing down again, but some of the decisions he made were concerning, including a two-point conversion pass that was returned 99 yards.