Searching for answers: Jaguars can’t stop Colts, lose 3rd straight as freefall continues

Indianapolis scores game-winning TD with 17 seconds left

Indianapolis Colts' Alec Pierce (14) makes a touchdown reception against Jacksonville Jaguars' Shaquill Griffin (26) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Indianapolis.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy) (Michael Conroy, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The slide continues for the Jaguars.

Matt Ryan picked Jacksonville apart from open to close, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass with 17 seconds to play to hand the Jaguars a 34-27 loss on Sunday.

The Jaguars (2-4) haven’t won in Indianapolis since 2017.

Jacksonville didn’t play as bad offensively as it did in losses to the Eagles and Texans, but they just couldn’t hang on against Ryan and the depleted Colts, who were down to their third-string running back and wound up losing him to injury in the game.

That didn’t matter because Ryan — branded a “sitting duck” earlier in the week by linebacker Travon Walker — picked apart Jacksonville’s secondary with ease.

Ryan countered a stellar fourth-quarter drive by Trevor Lawrence to notch a spectacular come-from-behind win and served up a slice of humble pie to the Jacksonville defense.

“Yeah, they’re hurting obviously. They battled,” said Jaguars coach Doug Pederson. “Again, it’s an opportunity to get better this week and learn from the film — coaches and players. Just get back to work. Nobody is going to, as we say, feel sorry for us. We just have to keep grinding and keep going.”

Ryan and the Colts salvaged a season split with the Jaguars and stayed in a race for the AFC South with the Titans. He was superb all game long and at his best with the game on the line.

Facing a third-and-13 with 23 seconds left and just trying to get yardage for a closer field goal opportunity, Ryan went for it all. He looked down the right sideline for Alec Pierce, who was covered by Shaquill Griffin. Pierce went up, snagged it and beat Griffin for a 32-yard touchdown. It was arguably Griffin’s worst game with the Jaguars. He drew a couple pass interference calls early in the game.

“This is one of the things we talk about a lot, is the finish, right? Credit them. Their game plan today obviously was not to huddle as much and try to play a little tempo and get the ball out quickly,” Pederson said. “Try to eliminate some of your pass rush that way. They did a good job with that. Our guys battled for 60 minutes. We just got to find a time, a place, a play somewhere that we can win these games.”

Ryan finished 42 of 58 for 389 yards and three touchdowns. He wasn’t sacked by a Jacksonville defense that made references to his immobility earlier in the week.

The Jaguars had one final opportunity but their final play of multiple laterals never had a chance. The loss dropped the Jaguars to third in the AFC South standings, in front of only the Texans.

“It’s tough. Not as much frustrating, just those are the games — we feel like we could have won every game that we’ve been in this year,” Lawrence said. “That’s the NFL though, so there is a lot of teams that can say that. At the end of the day just matters if you win or lose, so continuing to find ways to go and finish and win these games.”

Jacksonville watched a 14-3 lead dissipate when the Colts (3-2-1) overtook them on the opening drive of the fourth quarter, a 10-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Jelani Woods for a 26-21 Colts lead. Unlike previous games, Lawrence was able to answer.

Down 26-21 and momentum all with the Colts, Lawrence marched the Jaguars 84 yards down the field, chewing up 12 minutes, 16 seconds. He capped it with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Christian Kirk for a 27-26 lead.

“Yeah, I thought that was not only by him, but I think the offense. It was really good to see for us to go down and get that touchdown the go-ahead score there,” Pederson said. “I put a lot on Trevor and he made some big throws, and just good to see. Something we can learn from with him and keep building. Just continue to work at it, but that was good to see.”

The defense just couldn’t sew things up.

Ryan, who was smacked around in a Week 2 loss to Jacksonville, was exceptional. He picked the Jaguars defense apart all game, especially Griffin.

With 2:38 to play, Ryan marched the Colts from their own 34 and deep into Jaguars territory to set up the game-winning throw.

Lawrence was stellar on the drive to retake the lead.

He hit Zay Jones for an 18-yard gain on third-and-13. He converted on fourth-and-1 with a 2-yard run. And Lawrence stuck it in Kirk’s hands in the end zone for the go-ahead points. The Colts helped, too. They were flagged twice on third down for defensive holding to give Jacksonville automatic first downs each time.

The Colts appeared to have tied the game with just under six minutes to play in the third quarter. Ryan hit Michael Pittman on a two-point conversion throw but the replay booth overturned the catch, keeping the Jaguars in the lead at 21-19. The Jaguars countered with a drive where they went for it on fourth down, running a speed option to the right side of the field. Lawrence pitched it to Travis Etienne and he was dropped for a loss of 2.

The Colts responded with a nine-play, 66-yard drive to take the lead.

Lawrence finished 20 of 22 for 163 yards and was sacked four times. Etienne continued to emerge for the offense. He had 86 rushing yards on 10 carries as the Jaguars rushed for 243 yards on 33 carries.

He had a pair of short rushing touchdowns and JaMycal Hasty took his first carry of the game for a 61-yard rushing touchdown.

“Eventually, we got to go and win those games, and we know that. There is a lot of things we can learn from and get better at. We’re obviously taking it in, and emotions are high. Biggest thing is we got to stick together,” Lawrence said. “We’re all in it together. No matter what the result was, we all have our part and we got to look in the mirror, kind of same thing we said last week, and address it and move on this week.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.