Published November 20, 2014
The Colts' collapse keeps getting worse.
Rookie receiver Julio Jones touched the ball five times Sunday and scored twice against Indianapolis' porous pass defense, leading the Atlanta Falcons to a 31-7 victory over the NFL's only winless team.
Before fleeing Lucas Oil Stadium in the second half, fans serenaded Colts players with boos after watching Indianapolis go nearly 30 minutes between first downs. By the end of the game, at least 80 percent of the stadium was empty.
"We really feel the last two games we hurt ourselves," quarterback Curtis Painter said after throwing for only 98 yards. "I think we need to clean things up, play a little bit better, starting with myself."
Right now, the Colts (0-9) don't even look competitive.
They've been outscored 75-14 in the first half of the last three games and 120-24 overall.
Indy has lost five straight home games for the first time since 2001 and is on the cusp of falling to 0-10 for the first time since 1997. This was the Colts' worst defeat at home since a 31-3 loss to Seattle on Sept. 14, 1997, the year before quarterback Peyton Manning arrived.
And things aren't improving.
Manning still hasn't practiced since having neck surgery Sept. 8, and now the Colts could be without their top two tight ends. Dallas Clark (lower leg) and Brody Eldridge (hand) both left the game early. Coach Jim Caldwell provided no updates after the game.
Rookie running back Delone Carter was yanked after fumbling on the second play of the game and didn't return until the second half. Painter was pulled in the fourth quarter after completing 13 of 27 passes with one interception.
Defensively, the Colts were abysmal, too.
Atlanta needed only five plays to cash in on Carter's fumble, with a 1-yard touchdown run from Michael Turner. Jones, who was coming back from an injured left hamstring, burned the Indy secondary on TD catches of 50 and 80 yards.
"It gives us another good player, another good option to have the football in his hands," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "He's a good player, and we're certainly better when we have him."
Jones finished with three catches for a season-high 131 yards and had two carries for 33 yards, one of which set up a late field goal.
Atlanta (5-3) won its third straight to keep pace with NFC South-leading New Orleans, and it looked easy.
Ryan was 14 of 24 for 275 yards with three TDs and one interception. Roddy White caught four passes for 76 yards, and Turner ran 19 times for 71 yards. Tony Gonzalez also got into the act, catching a 1-yard TD pass late in the third quarter to make it 28-7.
Jones was terrific.
He beat triple coverage for the 50-yarder, making a great adjustment on the ball at the goal line. Initially, the pass was ruled incomplete, but coach Mike Smith won a replay challenge, giving the Falcons a 14-0 lead.
"I knew I had caught it," Jones said. "I knew my hands were up under the ball. I didn't bobble it or nothing."
On Atlanta's next possession, Jones ran across the field, catching a 10-yard pass near the left hash mark, then outran the Indy defense for an 80-yard score to make it 21-0 less than three minutes into the second quarter.
"The first one, we kind of lost it," Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "The second one was just us breaking down on defense and it's things like that that we've got to stop giving up to put us in position to win."
Powers came back with a juggling interception at the Falcons 6, returning it 6 yards for Indy's only score. That cut Atlanta's lead to 21-7.
But Indy's stagnant offense never got close to scoring again.
"I haven't had nightmares like that in a long time," Caldwell said when asked if he ever dreamed the Colts could go 0-9. "It's not something that you anticipate is going to happen.
"We just aren't performing well right now," he added.
Notes: Atlanta is 2-13 against the Colts and earned its first road win in the series, which began in 1966. ... The Colts had a video tribute for Falcons cornerback Kelvin Hayden between the first and second quarters. Hayden scored a TD on the game-sealing interception in the Colts' Super Bowl win over Chicago. Hayden was cut before training camp opened and picked off Painter in the first quarter. ... Falcons cornerback William Moore left briefly in the first half with a thigh injury. ... Donald Brown ran 16 times for 70 yards for Indy. ... Powers' interception was Indy's first forced turnover in six games.