INDIANAPOLIS – NO SECOND-HALF LET DOWN – The scene resembled the Colts' Week 3 meeting with the Jaguars.
Leading by two scores at halftime, the Colts were forced to punt on their first offensive possession of the second half.
Flashback to late September and the Jaguars would take their first offensive play of the second half all the way to the end zone thanks to a Maurice Jones-Drew 59-yard touchdown run.
But on this Thursday night, the defense was primed to make a play.
Cornerback Darius Butler made a perfect break on an intended out pattern by Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert and went untouched into the end zone for an 11-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"I knew they were trying to get the ball out quick," Butler said of the interception. "We had some pressure on (Gabbert) and they were backed up. I just anticipated it and made a play."
With the Colts leading 24-3, the defense forced punts on the next two possessions and preserved the three-score lead into a 27-10 final count.
Each of the Colts' first five wins of the season were decided by six points or less. Over the past several years, every one of the Thursday Night games Indianapolis has played in came down to just one possession.
The ability to win close games has been a staple through the first part of the 2012 regular season, but the players admitted having a multiple-possession lead in the fourth quarter was a welcomed feeling.
"It's something we've been working at all year to play 60 minutes, get the first 30 minutes going," safety Tom Zbikowski said. "We've been quite the second-half team, so it was good to show up in the first half and get things going early."
The Jaguars finally found the end zone early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 24-10 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
However, any hope for a defensive stop was stymied as the Colts milked nearly six minutes off the clock in earning the win. A key play was a critical 16-yard catch by wide receiver Reggie Wayne on a third-and-three with 7:48 remaining.
"I was telling some of the guys, 'There are times that you can enjoy the fourth quarter,' " Wayne said.
Enjoy they did on Thursday evening, moving their record to 6-3, while recording a fourth straight victory.
INJURIES PILE UP WITH SHORT WEEK –The list of inactives included a group of names most Colts fans are used to hearing in the starting lineup.
In all, six Colts starters did not suit up on Thursday night, but that did not stop Indianapolis from putting together the most complete effort of the season.
"We've got a lot of good kids in that locker room. The 'Next Man Up,' everybody laughs about it, but it's real," interim head coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "Darius Butler was living proof, along with Jeff Linkenbach and A.Q. Shipley and the rest of the young kids who started out there tonight and played their tails off."
Butler and Cassius Vaughn stepped into the starting lineup at the cornerback position and helped the defense limit the Jaguars to a one-of-10 effort on third downs.
In front of those two corners was outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, starting for Robert Mathis. Hughes recorded his fourth sack of the season on Thursday and was a part of a rush defense that held Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings to just 27 yards on 11 carries.
While the Colts did not do much physically on the practice field this past week, that definitely did not show on Thursday evening.
"It was very short (week)," Redding said. "A lot of mental reps, a lot of walk-throughs to keep our body healthy and fresh. You can tell with how fast we were going. Our energy level was outstanding."
On a night where the talk of equaling a season total three turnovers dominated the news, the Colts' rush defense deserved some headlines.
The 37 net rushing yards for the Jaguars is the fewest for a Colts opponent since September 2009.
Dealing with a short week and a half dozen starters on the sidelines, the Colts players will be rewarded for perhaps their finest effort of the season to date.
"We'll reconvene Monday, give the guys a three-day rest," Arians said. "They've earned it. It wasn't the best game for 60 minutes, but it was one of our better efforts.
"I knew the turnovers were going to come sooner or later, and they did. That's one thing Chuck (Pagano) and I talked about this week. He said, 'Just sit tight and don't talk about it, and it's not going to happen,' but they did, and they were big."