INDIANAPOLIS — There was that “heart in your gut” feeling as the Jacksonville Jaguars drove down the field late in Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts had seemingly done everything right, especially on offense, to go into halftime with a sizable lead, 29-16, but the reigning AFC South Division champion Jaguars had the mojo on their side over the final two quarters and just kept chipping away.
Eventually, Jacksonville had cut Indy’s lead to just three points, 29-26, and it had a golden opportunity to, at the very least, tie the game late and potentially force overtime, or even get in the end zone to escape Lucas Oil Stadium with yet another win.
That wouldn’t be the case, however.
For a second straight week, the Colts’ defense, which had its struggles throughout the ball game, came through when the team needed it the most, this time in the form of a Kenny Moore II forced fumble and Malik Hooker recovery to seal Indy’s 29-26 win, the team’s third straight victory overall.
“Defense came up big,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “Defensive came up big.”
The Colts’ fourth win of the season — tying last year's victory total — certainly didn’t come easy, especially late.
After Adam Vinatieri pushed a 52-yard field goal wide right, the Jaguars took over with decent field position, at their own 34, with just less than three minutes remaining.
Blake Bortles to T.J. Yeldon: six yards.
Blake Bortles to Yeldon: eight yards.
Yeldon run: nine yards.
All of a sudden, the Jaguars were at the Indianapolis 35-yard line, now with less than two minutes left.
Somebody make a play.
On 3rd and 1, Bortles found Rashad Greene Sr. over the middle for a 10-yard completion to the Indy 25. He was wrapped up by safety Clayton Geathers and Moore II, who punched the ball out of the hands of the receiver as approached the ground.
Hooker picked up the loose ball and had a wide-open path to the end zone. But there was whistles. Oh, were there whistles.
Was the receiver down? Was the ball coming out? The officials ruled the receiver was down, but nonethless it was time for a replay.
And a few moments later, official Jerome Boger announced that the ball did, indeed, come out before Greene Sr. was down. Colts’ ball. Colts win.
The home crowd went crazy — and the Colts’ defense, led by Moore II darted down the field in celebration.
“We’re just trying to have each other’s back,” Moore II told Colts.com’s Caroline Cann after the game. “Not even that play — the offense had our back whenever we were backed in a corner. So, hey, somebody had to make a play, and the play doesn’t have a name. So you’ve gotta make it.”
Sunday’s game was the second straight contest for the Colts in which their defense had its obvious struggles throughout, but was able to come away with a big play at the end to seal a win.
In the Colts’ last game, against the Oakland Raiders Week 8 at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, the Raiders’ offense looked unstoppable at times in the second, third and fourth quarters, scoring touchdowns on four straight drives.
But after Indy was finally able to pull back ahead by seven after a touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to tight end Jack Doyle, linebacker Darius Leonard punched the ball out of the grasp of Oakland running back Doug Martin on the very next play from scrimmage. Fellow rookie linebacker Matthew Adams fell on the ball, and a few plays later, running back Marlon Mack punched it into the end zone, and the Colts flew home winners.
It hasn’t certainly always been pretty — and certainly not in the second half on Sunday — but Reich’s team can officially claim a winning streak heading into next Sunday’s home matchup against another hot team, the Tennessee Titans (5-4).
“You don’t want it come down like that when you jump out to a lead like we did, playing as well as we did,” Reich told Cann. “But if there’s a silver lining, it’s, hey, the defense came through for us. That’s a good confidence builder for us as a team that we can win that way.”
See all the action on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars.