Sep. 19—JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two weeks into a season of high expectations hyped by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay as the potential dawn of another golden era, the franchise looks more likely to pick in the top five of next year's draft than to make a postseason run.
Sunday's 24-0 loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars was Indianapolis' seventh straight defeat at TIAA Bank Field, and it felt like a new low point for the team.
"They out played us, outcoached us," Colts head coach Frank Reich said. "We'll learn from it. We'll get better. We'll pick ourselves up off the mat. It's early in the season (but), obviously a very poor showing in every way."
Indianapolis was shut out for the first time since 2018 — when it lost 6-0 in Jacksonville — and it got little to no impact from the difference makers brought in to change things after last year's 26-11 road loss against the Jaguars in the regular-season finale.
It starts, as always, with the quarterback.
Veteran Matt Ryan was brought in to change the culture and raise the level of play of those around him. Too often against Jacksonville (1-1), he was a part of the problem.
Under fire throughout the game, Ryan was sacked five times and finished 16-of-30 for 195 yards with three interceptions and a 34.0 passer rating.
The miscues started on the opening drive when miscommunication between Ryan and wide receiver Ashton Dulin led to an ugly interception.
The Jaguars marched 68 yards on 15 plays and took 9:11 off the clock to take a 7-0 lead, and the Colts (0-1-1) never recovered.
Indianapolis was held to just 218 total yards, went 2-for-10 on third down and made just two unsuccessful trips into the red zone.
The Colts played without top wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., but that can't explain the depth of the offensive futility.
"That's no excuse," running back Nyheim Hines said. "We're pros. We are the best at what we do. We're experts at what we do. We really gotta come out here and play better. We let our coach down, we let the state of Indiana down and it was honestly just embarrassing."
The offensive line struggled mightily to contain Jacksonville defensive end Josh Allen, who had two sacks and an additional tackle for loss.
He was particularly disruptive early in the game when Indianapolis had back-to-back drives start at their own 40-yard line or better and failed to record even a first down.
The offense was thoroughly dominated All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor — the reigning NFL rushing champion — finished with just nine carries for 54 yards. He had five carries for 4 yards at halftime.
"I've got to play better. There's no doubt about that," Ryan said. "I think, as a group, we all have to play better, too. ... It's disappointing when you put in the work during the week and you come out and you don't play the way that you're capable of playing.
"Credit to Jacksonville. I thought they did a good job, played well. But we have to set a certain standard for ourselves that every week we've gotta show up and we've gotta be ready to go, and in the first two weeks we haven't done that."
The closest Indianapolis came to scoring came on the opening drive of the first quarter. Ryan appeared to hit Mo Alie-Cox in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, but the tight end was unable to drag his second foot inbounds and the pass was ruled incomplete.
What followed was a comedy of errors.
Ryan was sacked on second down for an 8-yard loss. He then completed a third-down pass underneath to tight end Kylen Granson, who reached the 2-yard line. But wide receiver Parris Campbell was called for offensive pass interference on the play, making it third-and-goal from the 22-yard line.
Ryan completed a 9-yard pass to Hines on the second third down, but his fourth-down pass intended for Mike Strachan was broken up in the end zone by Jacksonville cornerback Shaquille Griffin.
It was a microcosm of the game. The Colts briefly showed promise before things quickly descended into self-inflicted chaos and the end result was empty.
"Honestly, as a fifth-year player, I'm a leader. I've gotta be a leader on offense," Hines said. "But, like, that's not acceptable. We have a great staff, great players, a great owner — to embarrass them like that, not score a point at all. We played 60 minutes and (to) not score, it's flabbergasting."
Things weren't much better on defense.
Indianapolis didn't record a sack or a takeaway and was credited with just two hits on Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
For the second straight outing, the 2021 No. 1 overall pick carved the Colts apart. He finished 25-of-30 for 235 yards with two touchdowns and a 121.5 passer rating.
Lawrence's touchdown throws went for 10 yards to wide receiver Christian Kirk in the first quarter and 5 yards to Kirk for Jacksonville's final points with 17 seconds remaining in the third. In between, James Robinson ran for a 37-yard touchdown and Riley Patterson connected on a 52-yard field goal.
"This (crap) was embarrassing," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "We got our (rear end) whooped. We gotta come in tomorrow, take it on the chin and grow from this. Can't get high, can't get too low. It's still a long season. We're only two games in. It's a marathon, not a race.
"We got the right guys in the locker room to turn this thing around and regroup and get better next week."