Forgettable debut: Rivers picked off twice in loss to Jags

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Philip Rivers’ Indianapolis debut ended up being a dud.

Rivers threw two interceptions in a 27-20 loss at Jacksonville in the season opener Sunday and had another one negated by a penalty away from the ball.

It was, by far, his worst performance in 10 games against the Jaguars.

The longtime Chargers star who signed a one-year, $25 million contract to join the Colts in March completed 36 of 46 passes for 363 yards and a touchdown. But the costly turnovers overshadowed everything else.

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Rookie CJ Henderson picked off Rivers early, leading to a tying touchdown and giving the young Jaguars confidence and momentum. Second-year safety Andrew Wingard got Rivers late, setting up a field goal that provided Jacksonville a little cushion down the stretch.

“The second one, yeah, I’d like to have it back,” Rivers said. “But I didn’t think I was being reckless. Those are decisions you have to make in the heat of it. Certainly those turnovers hurt.”

Rivers needed a touchdown to tie on Indy’s final drive, but Henderson got a hand on his fourth-down pass to T.Y. Hilton. Hilton said afterward that Henderson didn’t even touch the ball, although replays showed otherwise.

“I lost the game. Two drops. Never should’ve happened,” Hilton said. “He got nothing on both of them. That was just me.”

There was plenty of other blame to go around for the Colts, who led most of the day and outgained Jacksonville by more than 200 yards.

Coach Frank Reich went for it on fourth down from the 3-yard line early and failed to get points when Nyheim Hines got stuffed. A chip-shot field goal would have put Indy up 10-0.

“I felt like that play was going to work, but it didn’t,” said Reich, who knelt next to his standing players during the national anthem. “So we got outcoached and outplayed on that play.”

Rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship banged a ball off the left upright from 30 yards, another missed scoring opportunity. And safety Kenny Moore aided Jacksonville’s go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth period with a horse-collar tackle that drew a 15-yard penalty.

“I’m frustrated because you know what type of team we are, you know what type of team we have, you know the type of players we have in this locker room,” linebacker Darius Leonard said. “Like I said, it doesn’t matter what you have on paper, you have to find a way to get the job done.

“We had too many miscues, too many mistakes, especially by me.”

Rivers entered the game having won seven of his last eight starts against the Jaguars. He had 20 TD passes and one interception in his last seven games against Jacksonville.

But Rivers threw a career-high 20 interceptions in 2019, looking like he lost some zip on his throws.

“I don’t have any concern,” Reich said. “Philip made some unbelievable plays on third down, some plays to keep drives alive. For us to score the points that we scored, I have no concerns about Philip. We have to play better on offense.”

That might get tougher to do without running back Marlon Mack. The starter left the game with an Achilles tendon injury and will have tests Monday to determine the extent. If he’s out for the season, Hines and second-round draft pick Jonathan Taylor would take on more of the workload moving forward.

More pressing: getting Rivers to play turnover-free football.

The Colts lost five of their final seven games last season and signed Rivers with the belief that he would make them a playoff contender. They didn’t look the part in the second half against Jacksonville.

“Anytime you lose, there is enough blame to go around for coaches and players,” Reich said. “The way it works best is if we all take responsibility. As the head coach, you take the most responsibility. You have to get your team ready to play and ready to execute. We didn’t get that done today.”

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