JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Indianapolis Colts got clowned in Jacksonville. This one was more embarrassing than any other loss to the Jaguars, too.
Indy badly botched a chance to secure an AFC wild-card spot with a 26-11 loss on Sunday in the “clown game,” the team’s seventh consecutive road loss to the Jaguars.
A debacle few saw coming left the Colts (9-8) with an outside shot at making the playoffs for the third time in four years, but those slim hopes ended when Pittsburgh beat Baltimore in overtime. Now, Indy returns home with a two-game skid and facing a long offseason that doesn’t even include a first-round draft pick thanks to the Carson Wentz trade.
The Jaguars (3-14), meanwhile, got a much-needed celebration that ended an eight-game losing streak. And they still managed to lock up the No. 1 pick for a second straight season.
“Feels good to end on a high note after all this turmoil that we went through the whole season,” Jaguars defensive end Dawuane Smoot said. “A lot of distractions, a lot of things. It’s good to just get back in and really just get that ‘W.’ ”
NFL rushing champion Jonathan Taylor was held to 77 yards, Carson Wentz was sacked six times and turned the ball over twice — leading to 10 points — and Indy did little to stop the usually clawless and often clueless Jaguars.
“Never expect to be sitting here having this moment right now, not like this,” Indy coach Frank Reich said.
The Colts looked more like the ones who should have been decked out in giant bow ties, face paint, and colorful wigs and suspenders. With a playoff berth on the line for the second time in eight days, Indianapolis was a no-show on an 80-degree day.
The 15-point outcome could have been a bigger blowout had the Jags scored touchdowns instead of settling for two chip-shot field goals from inside the 5-yard line.
“Oh, man, it was huge,” Jags cornerback Shaquill Griffin said. “We’re not sure what’s going to happen with the staff, the coaches, the players, but understand you’ve got one more chance to put it on tape. Leave no doubt, because you never want to be that guy leaving the season saying, ‘Man, I just wish this play I would have did a little bit more.’
“You don’t want to go into the offseason like that. It will haunt you forever.”
This one will haunt the Colts, who finished with 233 yards. It was their lowest total since getting 205 at New Orleans in December 2019.
Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence capped his best game with an incredible play late in the third quarter. He kept a high snap from going over his head, gathered it, rolled right to evade an unblocked defender, and then delivered a perfect pass to Marvin Jones in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard score.
Lawrence completed 23 of 32 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns, his first game with multiple TD passes since the season opener.
“I really wanted to finish the year off with confidence,” Lawrence said.
His performance gave disgruntled Jaguars fans hope for the future, even the ones dressed as clowns.
Only a few dozen fans — a couple hundred at most — wore clown attire to protest owner Shad Khan’s decision to keep general manager Trent Baalke. But their message became clear when one woman not wearing any clown gear was selected to answer a trivia challenge on the stadium big screens. Instead of choosing answers A, B or C, she responded “D, fire Baalke,” and cheers and chants erupted around TIAA Bank Field.
A plane flew a “#Klowntown banner” around the stadium before the game. One fan held a “Trent Baalke kicked me” sign. Another sign directed at Khan and players read, “It’s not you. It’s Baalke.”
Baalke’s draft class has been underwhelming and his free-agent signings produced no game-changers. His overall reputation is less than stellar, with the last five head coaches he has worked with — Urban Meyer (2021), Doug Marrone (2020), Chip Kelly (2016), Jim Tomsula (2015), and Jim Harbaugh (2014) — having been fired.
Wentz completed 17 of 29 passes for 185 yards, with a garbage-time touchdown and an interception. He also fumbled. He had another throw nearly picked off by safety Daniel Thomas, but officials huddled and ruled the ball touched the ground.
“It sucks, honestly, walking off kind of in disbelief,” said Wentz, who played enough snaps this season to trigger Indianapolis sending its first-round pick to Philadelphia. “It hurts right now. A lot of reflection to come over the next handful of days, unfortunately. But, yeah, it’s not a good feeling right now.”