Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and coach Chuck Pagano have experienced back-to-back losses for the first time in their two-plus seasons with the team.
History suggests another defeat this week would make it nearly impossible for the Colts to reach the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
The Colts will try to avoid dropping to 0-3 in Sunday’s road game against the winless Jacksonville Jaguars, who are expected to keep Chad Henne as their starting quarterback over rookie Blake Bortles.
Luck looked like he was guiding Indianapolis to victory against Philadelphia on Monday, throwing two touchdown passes in the first half and putting the Colts ahead 20-6 with less than seven minutes to go in the third quarter.
Indianapolis couldn’t hang on, allowing the Eagles to rally for a 30-27 win.
After making an ill-advised quarterback sneak in 31-24 loss in Denver on Sept. 7, Luck threw an interception with 5:15 remaining Monday that took away the chance at a potential clinching field goal and started Philadelphia toward a tying touchdown.
”It appeared we had that game won and we let it slip away,” coach Chuck Pagano said. ”I’ll start with myself. I’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better.”
Trent Richardson’s fumble late in the third quarter also led to a TD, and Indianapolis is 0-2 for the first time since 2011, when it lost its first 13 games while Peyton Manning sat out with a neck injury.
That start put the Colts in position to draft Luck with the No. 1 pick.
Indianapolis is already facing difficult odds to reach the postseason. Only 12 percent of teams that have started 0-2 since 1990 have made it, and an 0-3 start has proved significantly more daunting to overcome.
Since 1970, five of the 197 teams that have dropped their first three games have reached the playoffs (2.5 percent) and none have done it since the 1998 Buffalo Bills.
”You can point out every week if we did this, this and this we’d be 2-0,” Pagano said Tuesday. ”We have 14 games left and the only that matters right now is Jacksonville and that’s the next one. The record is the record. We’re not going to sit there and dwell on anything other than Jacksonville.”
The Colts have struggled to overcome the absence of reigning NFL sack champion Robert Mathis, out for the season with a torn Achilles. They have one sack and might not have one of their top free-agent signees, defensive lineman Arthur Jones, available for the next few weeks because of a sprained right ankle.
The team signed undrafted rookie Kelcy Quarles to replace Jones, but Sunday’s matchup could provide a boost to the scuffling pass rush.
Jacksonville gave up a team-record 10 sacks in a 41-10 rout by Washington on Sunday and has retooled its offensive line for this game. Sam Young will start at right tackle after Cam Bradfield was waived, and Luke Bowanko will make his first career start at center.
The Jaguars will keep Henne as the starting quarterback with No. 3 overall draft pick Bortles staying on the sidelines. With Henne at the helm, the Jaguars produced 148 yards against the Redskins.
"It’s too early to push the panic button," said running back Toby Gerhart, who had eight yards on seven carries. "We’re 0-2, two games on the road. Starting off against two good defenses on the road. We’re looking forward to playing at home, right the ship and get rolling."
Henne won’t have tight end Marcedes Lewis to target after he was placed on short-term injured reserve, but the team’s top receiver from 2013, Cecil Shorts III, and offensive tackle Austin Paztor might return to practice this week.
Safety Jonathan Cyprien (concussion) has been cleared to resume activities, but it’s uncertain when he’ll return to a unit that’s given up a league-worst 75 points and the fourth-most yards (869).
The Colts have allowed the third-most points at 61 and rank just below Jacksonville in yards allowed at 819. They’ve won three in a row over the Jaguars, however, and another victory would give them the longest win streak in the series since taking the first five meetings.
Indianapolis will also be trying for a series high-tying third consecutive victory in Jacksonville.