The Indianapolis Colts put the ball in Andrew Luck’s hands. They probably should have trusted Adam Vinatieri’s leg.
The Colts failed to convert three fourth-down plays — all in field-goal range — and lost 6-0 to offensively challenged Jacksonville on Sunday.
The first two were aggressive calls, calculated risks early in a scoreless game. The last one was a desperation move late. Regardless, they proved to be the difference in a low-scoring affair.
“In a game like that, if you have a crystal ball, I suppose you maybe play it a little different,” Vinatieri said.
The second-guessing for the Colts (6-6) started early in the second quarter — with some help from the Jaguars (4-8).
Vinatieri made a 29-yard field goal, but rookie defensive tackle Taven Bryan was flagged for roughing the snapper. That gave Indy first-and-goal at the 5. Luck misfired twice and then connected with Nyheim Hines on third down for a 4-yard gain.
Instead of sending Vinatieri back on the field for a chip shot, the Colts called for a shovel pass to Jordan Wilkins. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue read it and stopped Wilkins just short of the goal line.
“We were down in there enough, and that’s why you have to make every play count,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “They deserve a lot of credit for stopping us. Not every game is going to be running up and down the field, especially when you play a defense like that in their home stadium.”
On Indy’s ensuing possession, facing fourth-and-1 at the Jacksonville 31, Luck handed the ball to tight end Eric Ebron on an end-around play. Ebron fumbled, and the Jaguars recovered near midfield.
“I need to get that first down,” Ebron said. “I need to lower my shoulder and run him over. I did it the last time. I’ve done it before to get the first down. … I like losses like this because it makes you look back and it makes you think and you never let it happen again. Yeah, we got shut out. We can’t get shut out again.”
The Colts had another decent scoring chance late.
Trailing 6-0 and facing fourth-and-1 at the Jacksonville 19 with 2:38 remaining, Luck got sacked for a 10-yard loss .
“All the numbers say strong go there, and we liked the play we called,” Reich said.
The Colts entered with a five-game winning streak and the fourth-most points in the league. They averaged 34.6 points during their win streak, and Luck had thrown three or more touchdown passes in eight consecutive games.
So putting the ball in his hands seemed like the right call.
Even the Jaguars agreed.
“It made sense. They gambled on themselves,” Jacksonville linebacker Myles Jack said. “They’re high in the red zone, high on third down, so fourth down, play the lottery. That’s what they did, and they lost.”
Luck completed 33 of 52 passes for 248 yards and an interception. He was sacked three times after getting hit just five times in the entire month of November. He was sacked once in the previous five games.
“I didn’t feel very sharp,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was putting the ball in the places to really give guys a chance to catch them. And credit to their coverage, you know, it’s a great team game. … I know I can be sharper. I know I need to be sharper. I’m discouraged today, but I’m also in a sense encouraged to get back to work and work on these things and improve.”
Aggressive Colts Fall Short on 4th Down, Lose 6-0 at Jaguars