INDIANAPOLIS — It’s going to be a very long bye week for the Indianapolis Colts, and they can blame much of it on Cecil Shorts.
The second-year wide receiver out of Mount Union was on the receiving end of the second-longest pass play in Jacksonville history, and the Jaguars stunned the Colts 22-17 in the final minute Sunday.
Shorts pulled in a quick pass from Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert near midfield on the Jaguars’ final drive, then raced 80 yards to the end zone for the game-winning points with just 45 seconds remaining.
“This one’s going to sit in the pit of their stomach, all of our stomachs, for quite some time,” Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. “Obviously, we’re all going to have to get over it and move on and get better from here.”
Shorts’ catch and run was the climax of a wild final minute at Lucas Oil Stadium. The big play came just 11 seconds after Adam Vinatieri’s 37-yard field goal appeared to provide the winning points for the Colts (1-2).
Indianapolis rookie quarterback Andrew Luck made things more interesting on the final drive, moving the Colts to Jacksonville’s 26-yard line with seven seconds to play. He was hit from behind on his first try and threw an incompletion then threw a jump ball to Reggie Wayne that was knocked down in the end zone as time expired.
Luck completed 22 of 46 attempts for 313 yards and two touchdowns, but he was fixated afterwards on his third-quarter interception to Jacksonville middle linebacker Paul Posluszny.
“I lost sight of the Mike [linebacker], but all the indicators said that he was going to be there,” Luck said. “Very bad decision is what it boils down to.”
In truth, that was just one of several missed opportunities for Indianapolis.
The Colts built a 14-3 halftime lead behind a 40-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and a four-yard strike to third-down running back Mewelde Moore.
It was a breakout day for Hilton, who caught four passes for 113 yards in just his second NFL game. And the touchdown to Moore capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ended with just 37 seconds remaining in the first half.
But the Colts’ continuing second-half woes cost them dearly against the Jaguars (1-2).
“We just have to finish,” Wayne said. “The last two games, we hadn’t finished the way we should. We just have to learn how to finish, plain and simple.”
Indianapolis has been outscored 50-16 after halftime this season, and they got off to a poor start Sunday on both sides of the ball.
A holding penalty on left guard Seth Olsen stalled the opening drive of the third quarter after Luck began the series with a 13-yard pass to Wayne.
Maurice Jones-Drew then took his first carry of the second half 59 yards for a touchdown to cut Indianapolis’ lead to 14-10. Jones-Drew finished with 177 yards on 28 carries.
“If they hand it to him 30 times, you can play great [defense] 27 of those 30 times,” Pagano said. “He may average 30 yards per carry on those ones, but to give up a 60-yarder, that breaks your back.”
The Jaguars added a 47-yard field goal from Josh Scobee with 2:55 to play in the third quarter, following Luck’s interception, and took the lead on a 26-yarder by Scobee with 11:02 remaining in the fourth.
The Colts had a chance to keep Jacksonville off the scoreboard on the drive, but cornerback Jerraud Powers got just one foot inbounds on an interception attempt at the back of the end zone.
Meanwhile, the Indianapolis offense was short-circuiting amidst a storm of false start and holding fouls. The Colts were flagged 11 times for 106 yards, contributing to the team’s inability to find a rhythm. All but two of those penalties occurred in the second half.
Indianapolis also took a big emotional hit when receiver Austin Collie left the game with a knee injury after a six-yard catch early in the third quarter.
“It’s awful,” Luck said. “I know for the first couple of seconds I thought it was his head again. I was very scared for him. I’m not glad that it’s his knee but thankful that it’s not his head.”
Injuries continued to haunt the Colts. Cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Justin King were not on the field for Shorts’ touchdown catch after leaving earlier in the fourth quarter. Shorts took advantage by splitting the Colts’ deep safeties and racing away to victory.
Gabbert completed just 10 of 21 pass attempts and had just 75 passing yards before the big play. But he came up big when Jacksonville needed him most.
“He threw a great ball,” Shorts said. “He found the window, made the right read and threw a hell of a ball. He put the ball exactly where it needed to be.”
Indianapolis will be idle this week before returning to Lucas Oil Stadium on Oct. 7 against Green Bay. Luck said he’d rather have another game next Sunday, but it’s important for the team to use the downtime wisely.
“You do want to get out there and just focus on the next one, not let this linger,” Luck said. “And, hopefully, we don’t let this linger. Hopefully, we’ll watch the tape, fix our mistakes, get our corrections in, have a couple good practices and come back fresh and completely focused on the next opponent.”