Jacksonville Sports Day

NFL: Late Colts’ TD Ends Jaguars Dismal Season on Sour Note

jaguars_colts_football_49274 Photo by Charlotte Observer

INDIANAPOLIS — Just when it seemed as if the Jacksonville Jaguars had upset the Indianapolis Colts again, quarterback Andrew Luck made the most of the game’s final seconds to end a disappointing season on an upbeat note.

Luck’s 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Doyle with nine seconds remaining gave the Colts a 24-20 victory and an 8-8 finish to an inconsistent season on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“When you’ve got Andrew back there, you’ve got a shot,” said Doyle, who triumphantly spiked the football after his decisive catch while sitting in the end zone.

The Jaguars (3-13) had won the previous two meetings between the AFC South rivals, and thought they had pulled out another victory on Jason Myers’ 41-yard field goal with 1:33 remaining.

But that was ample time for Luck. Although out of timeouts, the no-huddle Colts drove 75 yards in eight plays and took 1:24 off the clock. Luck completed all six of his passes on the drive for 70 yards.

“It felt good to get that touchdown at that moment,” said Luck, who completed 24 of 41 passes for 321 yards with two scores and one interception. “There were times earlier this year that we didn’t finish games when we had the chance in the two-minute drill or four-minute drill. So to get that one was very joyous and maybe released a little frustration.”

The comeback win from an early 17-0 deficit sent Colts fans home happy, but head coach Chuck Pagano’s team is missing the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 1997 and 1998. Speculation has centered on whether owner Jim Irsay will stick with Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson for next season.

Pagano avoided answering a question about his future by repeating “Happy new year,” discussing family members in attendance and gushing about how outside linebacker Robert Mathis ended his 14-year career with a strip sack to finish with a franchise-record 123 regular-season sacks.

The Jaguars were trying to win their second consecutive game since head coach Gus Bradley was fired and replaced by interim coach Doug Marrone.

“We talked to the players about learning how not to lose first, before learning how to win,” Marrone said.

An argument could be made that conservative play calling near the end contributed to the Jaguars’ demise.

Reserve linebacker Dan Skuta blocked a Pat McAfee punt to give the Jaguars the ball at the Colts’ 30 with the score tied at 17 and 1:54 remaining. The Colts burned their timeouts after each of the next three plays, and the Jaguars were content to run the football three times before Myers kicked the go-ahead field goal.

Just 21 seconds elapsed, whereas gaining a first down on a third-and-3 play would have enabled the Jaguars to run the clock down before attempting a potential game-winning field goal.

“It is one of those situations where we got into a four-minute mode and tried to get them to use all their timeouts, which they did,” Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said.

The Jaguars rushed for 182 yards on 30 carries, but running back Corey Grant was stuffed for no gain on that third-and-3 rush.

“I think they knew that we were going to run the ball,” Grant said, “and they kind of stacked that side.”

Pagano admitted the Colts crowded the defensive box in anticipation of a run.

“Great job by the ‘D’ getting the stop there and holding them to three points,” Pagano said. “It was critical.”
The Colts rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns.

Reserve running back Robert Turbin scored on a 7-yard run to trim the deficit to 17-10. Luck connected with tight end Dwayne Allen on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

It was a dramatic turnaround from the first half, when the Colts had four three-and-out possessions in the opening quarter.

Myers kicked a 47-yard field goal, Bortles threw a 14-yard TD pass to Ken Koyack and Grant scored on a 57-yard touchdown run to make it 17-0 with 5:45 remaining in the second quarter.

“A lot of bad happened in the first half,” Luck said.

When the Colts had a chance to score in the second quarter, kicker Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal attempt clanked off the right upright. The miss cost him a $500,000 contract incentive.

“We can’t take our foot off the gas,” said Jaguars defensive end Ricky Fowler Jr., who contributed a 1/2 sack to his team’s total of four. “Coach Marrone gave us a good speech at halftime. He was like, ‘You’re either the hunter or going to be hunted.’ At the end of the day, we have to step on their throats. You can’t hold back when we have a lead and the momentum like that.”

GAME NOTES: Frank Gore’s 18-yard rush in the third quarter enabled the Colts back to become the first 33-or-older runner to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season since John Riggins in 1984. … Jaguars C Brandon Linder (concussion) was ruled out in the first quarter. … Colts NT David Parry (pectoral strain) exited in the final quarter. … The loudest cheer player introductions was for Colts OLB Robert Mathis, who announced on Friday that this 192nd career game would be his last. The retiring 14th-year pro and six-time Pro Bowl selection added a fourth-quarter strip sack to finish with a franchise-record 123 sacks. … NFL Hall of Famer Bill Polian, the Colts’ president/vice chairman from 1998 to 2011, was inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime. Polian built the Colts’ Super Bowl XLI championship team

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