INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—The Indianapolis Colts’ high-scoring offense proved it could be patient, too.
Peyton Manning went into the locker room at halftime and tried to not be frustrated after the Colts had only three first-half series and nine offensive plays in the first 27 minutes.
“You do have to stay poised,” the two-time MVP said.
Manning threw for one touchdown and ran for another in the second half, and Terrence Wilkins returned a punt 82 yards for a TD to help the Colts maintain their dominance in the AFC South with a 21-14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Offensively, we’ve been in enough games to know it’s going to be a four-quarter game, and you’ve got to move on,” Manning said.
Usually for the Colts (3-0), that’s second nature. But Jacksonville’s aggressive game plan changed the script.
By clogging the inside running lanes with their big tackles, the Jags (2-1) relied on speed to shut down the outside. Meanwhile, the offense played keepaway with a powerful running game that produced 191 yards but only 86 after the first quarter.
For a half, it seemed like the perfect strategy.
The problem was the three-time defending division champs improvised—with the third-longest punt return for a TD in franchise history and Manning’s first rushing TD since 2002—to win their second straight home game over a division foe. Indy has won 11 straight AFC South games and beat the Jags for the fourth time in five tries.
“I guess they’ve got the bragging rights now,” Jags quarterback Byron Leftwich said.
Jacksonville wanted to make a statement in the title chase six days after shutting out defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh.
The defense managed to keep Manning out of sync or off balance most of the day. He finished 14-of-31 for 219 yards with one TD, the 249th of his career, and scored on a beautiful fake to seal the victory midway through the fourth quarter.
Marvin Harrison caught six passes for 94 yards, moving within three catches of fourth on the career list. Andre Reed has 951 career receptions, Harrison has 949.
And the Jaguars, who held the ball for more than 24 minutes in the first half, relied on the tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice Drew to dictate the game. Taylor rushed 21 times for 74 yards, while Drew had 13 carries for 103 yards and four receptions for 32 yards including a 7-yard TD catch late in the game.
It might have been enough had they not blown so many scoring chances—a major faux pas against a perennial Super Bowl contender such as the Colts.
“We left a lot out there, but we’ve got to make sure those types of things don’t happen,” Leftwich said. “We’ve got to come away with more than seven points.”
Leftwich, who was 16-of-28 for 107 yards and two interceptions, was part of the reason.He was picked off by Jason David at the Indy 9 in the first half and by Mike Doss with 45 seconds left in the game when he missed Reggie Williams deep over the middle.
Then there was Josh Scobee. He missed two field goals to the left, hitting the upright on a 24-yarder late in the first half and pushing a 49-yarder even farther left in the third quarter.
“One was just a chip shot and the other was a pretty good kick,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “We feel good about his leg, he just mishit the ball. He missed the kind of field goals we can count on.”
Those miscues kept Indy close, and that was all they needed.
Leftwich methodically moved the Jags 78 yards on their first possession and capped a drive that consumed half of the first quarter by running 4 yards to make it 7-0.
The Colts tied it early in the second quarter when Wilkins fielded a punt near the right sideline, found a crease and got a couple of good blocks to go 82 yards for a TD.
“Hopefully, it was big,” Wilkins said.
Indy made sure the second half was a different story.
Manning made it 14-7 early in the third quarter when he found an uncovered Dallas Clark for a 30-yard TD pass, and he sealed the win when he faked an inside handoff to Joseph Addai and scooted untouched around the right side for a 2-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter.
“We were just off a little bit,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said. “I thought our sideline stayed calm and we made some adjustments and kept our composure. … We realized if we started playing, we’d be OK.”
Wilkins’ return was the first for Indy since he last did it September 2001 against the New York Jets. … Matt Jones failed to catch a pass for the Jaguars, but did play. … Colts cornerback Nick Harper left the game with a strained groin. … Guard Chris Naeole also was injured in the fourth quarter when Leftwich ran into him.