JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars and Colts were in similar positions in Week 14 of 2015.
The 7-6 Colts were muddling through a below-average season entering the game in Jacksonville with the 4-8 Jaguars needing a few wins to work toward their first 8-8 record since 2010.
Second-year quarterback Blake Bortles showed promise in 2015 with big numbers. Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee looked like a receiver trio the Jaguars could count on. Head Coach Gus Bradley needed a breakthrough at the end of his third season to offer hope for the future.
Early in Week 14, it didn't look promising.
The Colts led 6-3 with just over two minutes remaining in the first half when punter Pat McAfee pinned the Jaguars at their five-yard line. On second down, immediately following the two-minute warning, Bortles' fumble scooted backwards toward the end zone, where defensive end Robert Mathis recovered for a 13-3 Colts lead.
If didn't look good for the Jaguars to end a two-game losing streak and try to build some momentum toward the end of the year.
It looked worse 34 seconds later. After finding Lee for 21 yards, Bortles hit tight end Julius Thomas for 30 more to the Colts 29. But as Bortles was looking for another big gain, he was sacked by safety Mike Adams. CJ Geathers returned Bortles' fumble 29 yards.
The train was definitely off the rails – or so it seemed. On first-and-10 at the Jaguars 34, Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch sacked Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Branch returned Hasselbeck's fumble 49 yards for a touchdown and a 13-9 Colts halftime lead.
The Jaguars' defense was building momentum, and the Jaguars faced first-and-10 at their 20 after forcing a quick three-and-out on Indianapolis' first second-half possession.
Bortles sailed a rainbow of pass into the outstretched arms of Hurns, who took the ball 80 yards into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown and a 16-13 Jaguars lead – their first of the game. EverBank Field was rocking behind the home team's sudden turnaround.
What happened less than two minutes later added to their excitement.
The Colts picked up four yards in three plays and McAfee – one of the game's best punters – went out to rescue the Indy offense after consecutive three-and-outs. He nailed a high, arching kick that Jaguars wide receiver Rashad Greene fielded near the Jaguars 27. Greene took off up the Jaguars sideline and weaved through and around defenders, with his 73-yard punt return for a touchdown giving the Jaguars a 23-13 lead.
Momentum was on the Jaguars' sideline suddenly, and it wasn't leaving.
The defense held, forcing an Adam Vinatieri field goal to cut into the lead. The Jaguars turned to the running game and marched down the field, with Yeldon and Denard Robinson carrying the load along with Bortles' 15-yard scramble. When Bortles flipped the ball to Robinson in the end zone on second and goal from the four-yard line, it made the score 30-16 and capped a 21-point third-quarter explosion.
The Jaguars were far from done. They added another Bortles touchdown pass, a touchdown run by Robinson and a Bortles quarterback keeper for a 21-point fourth-quarter explosion and a 51-16 victory.
The Jaguars defense took the ball away twice and held the Colts to 129 yards in the second half.
The dominating home win set in motion the Jaguars' current six-game winning streak over the Colts in Jacksonville.
We'll see on Sunday if they can make it seven.