Indy's dream season continues
Jacksonville, FL (Sports Network) - Peyton Manning threw for 324 yards with a pair of touchdowns and Mike Vanderjagt kicked four field goals, as the Indianapolis Colts captured the AFC South title and wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs with a 26-18 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Alltel Stadium.
Manning completed 24-of-36 passes, hitting Marvin Harrison with both scoring strikes in the first half. Harrison had six catches for 137 yards and Edgerrin James chipped in 154 total yards, 93 rushing on 30 carries and 61 receiving on nine catches, in the victory.
The Colts (13-0) became the fourth team to start a season with 13 consecutive wins, joining the 1934 Chicago Bears, 1972 Miami Dolphins and 1998 Denver Broncos. Only the '72 Dolphins went on to complete the season undefeated and win the league title.
"We may be 13-0, but there's still plenty of football left," said Manning.
Already knowing his team will be the top seed in the AFC playoffs, Colts head coach Tony Dungy will now have to answer questions about resting players or trying to make history.
The Jaguars (9-4), meanwhile, had a five-game winning streak stopped and will have to play for a wild card berth. Jacksonville does have a favorable schedule with games remaining against San Francisco, Houston and Tennessee -- teams with a combined six wins entering Sunday's play.
"The rest of the schedule may look easy, but any team can get hot from week to week," said Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio.
The Indianapolis defense, which held Jacksonville to a mere three points in the first meeting this season back on September 18, was dominant again -- for three quarters. The Jaguars, who fumbled three times before the fourth period, scored a pair of touchdowns in the final stanza to make things interesting.
Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard, making his second straight start in place of the injured Byron Leftwich, completed 26-of-35 passes for 250 yards with a touchdown in defeat. He also ran for the Jaguars' first score in the fourth quarter.
Fred Taylor returned to the Jacksonville lineup after missing two games with an ankle injury and rushed for only 19 yards on 10 carries. Jimmy Smith had eight catches for 102 yards with a score.
The Colts built a 26-3 cushion early in the fourth quarter before the Jaguars came to life with a desperate rally.
After Garrard fumbled inside the Indianapolis five-yard line with 9:16 to play, he directed two scoring drives.
"Red-zone fumbles hurt us today," said Garrard. "We tried not to think about the turnovers and just keep fighting."
The next series ended with a five-yard run for a touchdown and the Jaguars recovered an onside kick. Garrard then tossed a one-yard scoring pass to Smith and ran for the two-point conversion to make it 26-18 with 1:54 remaining.
Del Rio elected to kick deep, hoping his defense could force Indianapolis into a three-and-out.
After a pair of James carries netted three yards, Manning found tight end Dallas Clark with a 12-yard pass for a first down to seal the contest.
The Colts, despite the final score, dominated the first three quarters.
Jacksonville drove to the Indianapolis 43 with its first possession, but Del Rio decided to punt on 4th-and-1 and the Colts quickly established control with an 89-yard drive for a touchdown.
Manning completed each of his six passes on the 11-play march and finished it with a nine-yard slant to Harrison for the score.
A trade of punts left the Jaguars with great field position at the Indianapolis 26 and two plays moved Jacksonville to the nine, but the drive stalled there and Josh Scobee kicked a 27-yard field goal in the first minute of the second quarter to make it 7-3.
After another trade of punts, the Colts needed one play to extend their lead as Manning found Harrison behind the Jacksonville secondary for a 65-yard touchdown.
The Jaguars appeared to be in position to answer on their next series when a 21-yard reception by Smith and a 17-yard run by Greg Jones gave them a first down at the Indianapolis 25. After a holding penalty, Kyle Brady fumbled after a catch and the Colts recovered at their own 24.
Manning then directed a drive to the Jacksonville three-yard line, with the aid of three Jaguars penalties, but a loss by James was followed by two incomplete passes. The Colts lined up for a field goal with a swinging gate formation and holder Hunter Smith took the snap but threw incomplete just before the two-minute warning.
The decision to try the trick play did not hurt, as Indianapolis got the ball back with 54 seconds left and Vanderjagt kicked a 40-yard field goal to send the Colts into the break with a comfortable 17-3 advantage.
Vanderjagt started the scoring on the first series of the second half with a 34-yard field goal and added a 38-yarder in the final minute of the third quarter to make it 23-3.
Indianapolis, with two full possessions and a third after a late Brady fumble, held the ball for 13:01 of the 15 minutes in the period.
Following Brady's second fumble, Vanderjagt added a 46-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
The Colts have won three straight division crowns for the first time since the Baltimore Colts captured the AFC East in 1975, '76 and '77...Manning became the first player in NFL history to reach 3,000 passing yards in each of his first eight seasons...Jimmy Smith, on his first reception, became the 13th player in NFL history to reach 12,000 receiving yards. Harrison, last week, was the 12th