JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars' downward spiral this season has yet to find a bottom.
Stymied by yet another outing that featured multiple unforced errors, lackluster offense and a tepid defense, the Jags fell into an early hole and never recovered in a 27-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night.
The setback was Jacksonville's sixth straight since beating their AFC South rival, as they set a franchise-worst start of 1-8.
Darius Butler returned an interception for a score as the Colts (6-3) won their fourth consecutive game and snapped a three-game losing streak in the series. The Jaguars (1-8) have lost six straight.
"We gotta play better. We just have to," Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "This is our job. So you gotta come out here and play to win every day, every practice, every meeting — everything. You gotta play to win and do everything to win. You also have to have that will and desire to win, too. So, we have to get to that point where everybody just refuse to lose."
There was also a scary moment early in the third quarter when Blaine Gabbert was sacked and had his left shoulder driven to the ground. It was the same shoulder he injured three weeks ago in an overtime loss at Oakland.
He remained on the sideline as Chad Henne led the Jaguars to a fourth-quarter touchdown, but did not return.
"I didn't think it was worth the risk," Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said. "Not very smart for us to put him back out there."
The Jags fell into a 24-3 hole after three quarters and never recovered.
For the season, the Jaguars have been outscored 153-47 at home. They were penalized 10 times for 115 times Thursday night, a dismal figure that spoke to how out of sorts the team is as a whole right now.
It all adds up to even more uncertainty about the future of the franchise, with owner Shahid Khan saying Wednesday that changes could be on the way this offseason.
Still, receiver Cecil Shorts III — whose touchdown was one of the few bright spots for the Jags all night — said they have to make an effort to start somewhere.
"We can't shoot ourselves in the foot," Shorts said. "We had turnovers and plays that we should make, and plays that we didn't make. So it's definitely frustrating. We gotta stick together and keep fighting."
The Colts had cause for concern following an emotional victory four days earlier, one in which cancer-stricken coach Chuck Pagano delivered a passionate, postgame speech in the locker room. Interim coach Bruce Arians was worried the team might crash from the emotional high.
Not even close.
Indianapolis scored on three consecutive possessions in the first half, opening a 17-0 lead that started emptying the stands at EverBank Field.
Andrew Luck, coming off an NFL rookie record 433 yards passing against Miami, wasn't quite as sharp. He didn't need to be, either.
Luck completed 18 of 26 passes for 227 yards, with an interception and a fumble. But he was unstoppable near the end zone, deking defenders with two pump fakes and scrambling for a 5-yard score on one drive and then plunging across the goal line on fourth down on the next possession.
That was plenty against the Jaguars, who have the league's worst offense and played a third game without star running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jacksonville has lost every game since a come-from-behind victory at Indianapolis. Blaine Gabbert hit Shorts for an 80-yard touchdown in the final minute, stunning the Colts.
There was no drama in the rematch.
The Colts essentially sealed the victory when Butler stepped in front of Gabbert's pass in the flat and went untouched for an 11-yard score early in the third quarter.
Indianapolis became just the third road team to win on Thursday night this season, and just the fifth in the last two seasons. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said before the game that the league is analyzing whether home teams on short weeks have a distinct advantage.
It certainly would help any road team to play in Jacksonville.
Against Indy, nothing seemed to go Jacksonville's way.
Marcedes Lewis, Rashad Jennings and Shorts dropped passes early. Josh Scobee missed a 44-yard field goal attempt, snapping a streak of 20 consecutive makes.
The Jaguars had an interception overturned by a roughing the passer penalty on Terrance Knighton, keeping alive a drive that ended in a touchdown. They also were on the losing end of two reviews.
Laurent Robinson fumbled at the end of a 9-yard gain, getting the ball stripped by Moise Fokou. Officials initially ruled Robinson was down, but the call was overturned on review. That turnover led to Indy's second touchdown and led to Mularkey's meltdown on the sideline.
Mularkey lost his cool when officials refused to acknowledge his pleas for a review on Luck's fourth-down TD plunge. Luck appeared to fumble the ball as he crossed the goal line.
All scoring plays are reviewed, so Mularkey couldn't challenge, but he seemingly wanted officials to take a longer look at the scoring play. He whipped his play sheet and headset onto the field, drawing a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Players followed his lead, getting flagged for five more 15-yard penalties. Knighton, center Mike Brewster, safety Dawan Landry, defensive end Andre Branch and receiver Justin Blackmon all drew flags.
Trailing 17-0, Mularkey wanted to go for it on fourth-and-4, but Gabbert bobbed his head and was flagged for a false start. Mularkey settled for a field goal.
Gabbert completed 18 of 31 passes for 209 yards, with an interception. Shorts caught six passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, a 4-yarder from backup Chad Henne. Robinson finished with nine receptions for 77 yards.
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