JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Peyton Manning & Co. were too much for Jacksonville’s vaunted defense.
Manning was 14-for-14 for 149 yards on three touchdown drives, including 5-for-5 on the go-ahead score with about three minutes to play. He completed passes to five different receivers on the final drive, which James capped with a 3-yard TD run.
“Peyton’s on point right now,” Jags linebacker Akin Ayodele said. “There’s not much he’s doing wrong.”
Last season’s co-MVP entered the game with nine touchdown passes and just one interception. He was 20-of-29 for 220 yards Sunday with two TD passes and an interception.
He wasn’t quite as sharp as last week, when he threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns against Green Bay. But he did exactly what he needed to against Jacksonville’s defense, which had allowed just 28 points in the first three games.
“It’s great to have No. 18 back there with all the stuff he can do and the different ways he can help you,” said Brandon Stokley, who caught eight passes for 97 yards. “It’s priceless.”
Jacksonville (3-1) played a fourth consecutive close game—it won the first three by a combined seven points—but couldn’t pull this one out.
After James’ TD run, Jacksonville drove into Indy territory with less than two minutes to play. But Fred Taylor came up short on fourth-and-1—with both starting offensive tackles on the sideline—and the Colts (3-1) ran out the clock from there.
“I thought it was a bad spot,” said Taylor, who ran 21 times for 68 yards. “I thought we got that yard, but I guess the officials didn’t see it the same way.”
Indianapolis pulled even with Jacksonville in the AFC South but has a distinct edge with road wins over the Jaguars and Tennessee.
After opening the season with a three-point loss at New England, the Colts have rebounded to beat the Titans, Packers and Jags.
“This was a good way to finish the first month,” coach Tony Dungy said.
The Jaguars’ first month was filled with good fortune. They beat Buffalo, Denver and Tennessee in the final minute.
They tied the Indy game at 17 with a gutsy call, a perfect pass and a favorable bounce—and looked to eek out another close one.
Then Leftwich threw a sharp pass to Brian Jones for the 2-point conversion. Jones bobbled it twice before securing it in a crowd of defenders.
But Manning had plenty of time left.
He also benefited from a questionable call on third-and-5. Manning threw incomplete to Marvin Harrison, but Dewayne Washington was flagged across the field for defensive holding—a 5-yard penalty that kept the drive alive.
Manning was 5-for-5 for 33 yards on the drive. He also was perfect on two other touchdown drives.
He was 5-for-5 for 67 yards on Indy’s second possession, which ended with his 15-yard strike to Harrison.
And Manning was 4-for-4 for 49 yards, including a precision pass to Marcus Pollard down the middle, for a 16-yard score that gave the Colts a 17-6 lead late in the third quarter.
“Peyton did everything to get them down the field when they needed a score,” Jags defensive tackle Marcus Stroud said.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, missed several scoring chances in the first half that could have changed the outcome.
They had 203 yards of offense and moved the ball with ease against Indy’s much-maligned defense, which ranked last in the league.
The Jags’ first three possessions could have produced points, but LaBrandon Toefield came up short on fourth-and-1 from the Indianapolis 24. Then Taylor fumbled at the Indy 43, and Josh Scobee pushed a 35-yarder wide right.
“We definitely had some opportunities that we left on the field,” Taylor said. “We beat ourselves in certain situations. They certainly didn’t stop us. They just did enough to win.”
Leftwich was 29-of-41 for 318 yards. … Manning and Harrison have connected for 71 career touchdowns. … Jags DE Lionel Barnes returned to the starting after missing last week’s game with a shoulder injury. … The division rivals play again in three weeks in Indianapolis.