Just when you thought they were out, the Colts have pulled the AFC South lead back in.
Indy controls its own fate in the division after Sunday’s 34-24 home win against a Jaguars team that has made a habit of blowing chances at winning the division during the Jack Del Rio era. The result was in doubt late when Mike Sims-Walker caught a touchdown to cut the Colts’ lead to three points, but Tyjuan Hagler returned the ensuing onside kick 41 yards for the icing on the cake.
Hagler’s play wasn’t the only big second half swing. The Jaguars turned the ball over twice in the final 30 minutes, the only two turnovers of the game, and both of them were costly. Adam Vinatieri hit field goals to put the Colts up two scores after both Mike Thomas’s muffed punt and David Garrard’s interception, with both scores giving the Colts breathing room they wound up needing as the game progressed. Also costly was Del Rio’s decision to go for it on fourth down of the first possession of the third quarter which failed and led to a Donald Brown touchdown run.
Brown had a big day for the Colts, finishing with 129 yards that gave the Indy offense much-needed balance against the Jags. Peyton Manning has had gaudier numbers than his 229 passing yards and two touchdowns, but he was very efficient and avoided the interceptions that helped put the Colts on such shaky ground coming into this game.
For the Jaguars, the good news is that their final two games – Washington, at Houston — are easier than the Colts’ closing run of a trip to Oakland and a visit for the Titans. The bad news is that winning both games guarantees them nothing and that the Wild Card race doesn’t hold much promise for them at this point. If they want to kick themselves about something this week, it will likely be the inability to establish a running game against the Colts. Maurice Jones-Drew had just 46 yards on 15 carries as the Jags were forced to rely heavily on Garrard over the course of the afternoon.