“The Streak” ended in embarrassment, and Indianapolis Colts fans can’t help but wonder if the 2015 season will conclude in three weeks, too.
An NFL-record AFC South Division winning streak of 16 games was snapped as the Jacksonville Jaguars jumped on the visiting Colts for six second-half touchdowns in a 51-16 rout Sunday at EverBank Field.
And the two-time defending champs’ hopes for a fourth consecutive playoff berth took a serious jolt from the Jaguars as well. The Colts lost by 35 points in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history.
The Colts fell to 6-7 with a second consecutive loss, one game ahead of the Jaguars, and would fly home keeping an eye on the New England-at-Houston game. The Texans began the day tied for the division lead at 6-6.
Houston visits Indianapolis next week in what likely decides the division title. The Texans have never won in the Hoosier State capital city in 13 chances, but confidence in the Colts is fading fast.
Everything actually appeared to be in the Colts’ favor in the opening half. The Jaguars drove to a field goal on their opening series, then nowhere, in fact losing yards. The Colts came up with three sacks and despite a sputtering offense had the upper hand.
They took a 13-3 lead after outside linebacker Robert Mathis fell on a bad snap for a defensive touchdown in the second quarter. Then came another Jaguars turnover. Safety Mike Adams forced a fumble that safety Clayton Geathers returned to the Jaguars’ 34 with 1:11 remaining in the half.
But instead of a two-score advantage, it all began to unravel on the next play, when defensive end Andre Branch beat offensive right tackle Denzelle Good and smacked the football away from Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Branch then scooped it up and ran 49 yards for a touchdown.
The Jaguars’ Jason Myers missed his league-leading seventh extra point, so the Colts lead 13-9 at halftime, but the big plays kept coming in a pivotal third quarter.
Wide receiver Allen Hurns shook off a missed tackle to turn a modest pass play into an 80-yard touchdown. When the Colts punted again, Rashad Greene returned it 73 yards for a score. When the Jags got the ball back, they drove 80 yards in eight plays, culminating in a Blake Bortles 4-yard TD pass to Allen Robinson.
Tight end Julius Thomas caught Bortles’ third TD pass to make it a 21-point deficit early in the final quarter. The Jaguars’ second-year quarterback bumped his single-season franchise record for touchdown passes to 30. He’s had at least two in eight of the past nine games.
Hasselbeck had a rough afternoon. Andrew Luck’s 40-year-old fill-in was hurt on a hit that knocked his helmet off in the third quarter. The 17th-year pro returned after a brief absence only to be hurt again a quarter later as he suffered a rib injury after being shoved out of bounds. He didn't come back this time.
After winning his first four starts, Hasselbeck has struggled in the past two. He missed open receivers early on, then got pounded behind a shaky O-line after that. He completed 18-of-35 passes for 252 yards with the lost fumble. The Colts failed to score an offensive touchdown.
The Jaguars had lost five of the games in the Colts’ division streak by an average of 20.8 points, including a 16-13 overtime defeat on Oct. 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium. And Jacksonville had scored an average of just 9.2 points in those games.
Sunday sure was different.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.