INDIANAPOLIS – On a day when Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew ran wild on the Colts defense, it was a big play through the air that made the difference in Jacksonville's 22-17 victory.
Jones-Drew had 177 yards on 28 carries against a Colts defense looking to hold a third straight Pro Bowl running back under 100 yards.
In the two previous weeks, the Colts, 1-2, had kept Chicago running back Matt Forte (80) and Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson (60) well below the century mark.
However, it was clear from the get-go that the Jaguars would pound the ball with Jones-Drew. Drew had 70 yards by halftime as Jacksonville handed him the ball on almost half of the club's 27 offensive snaps.
"That was our main focus coming into the game, to stop the run," Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. "We definitely didn't do that today.
"(His) 177 yards, that's unacceptable. We are going to watch the film and we will correct it and get better at it."
Jones-Drew's 70 first-half yards came on 12 carries, but the Colts held the Jaguars to just two first downs on their final four drives of the opening 30 minutes. After allowing Jacksonville an early field goal, Indianapolis was able to score two touchdowns in taking a double-digit lead at home for the second straight week.
The play that turned the game around came on the Jaguars' first possession of the second half.
With the Colts leading, 14-3, Jones-Drew took a handoff from quarterback Blaine Gabbert and rumbled 59 yards for a score.
"(Jones-Drew) had some seven-, eight-, nine yards…but then to give up the 60-yarder (was tough)," Head Coach Chuck Pagano said.
"If they hand it to him 30 times, you can play it great 27 of those 30. He may average three yards a carry, but you give up a 60-yarder it breaks your back."
The 59-yard touchdown run gave the Jaguars hope, and they added field goals on two of their next three possessions. Those scores set the stage for a thrilling final five minutes.
After Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 36-yard field goal to take the lead with 4:40 to play, it was up to the Indianapolis defense to give the offense one more chance.
On back-to-back possessions, the Colts defense stood tall in shutting down Jones-Drew and forcing three-and-outs.
The offense finally capitalized as Vinatieri got back his earlier miss with a 37-yard field goal to give the Colts a 17-16 lead with 56 seconds to play.
Looking for one last stop, the Colts defense was hit with another big play by the Jaguars.
Just like he did two weeks ago against the Vikings, Gabbert hit wide receiver Cecil Shorts for a final-minute touchdown.
Gabbert found Shorts on a slant pattern and the receiver did the rest by outrunning the Colts defense for a majority of the 80-yard touchdown.
"We were in a zone type," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "(Shorts) hit the seem and out-ran the rest of us basically. They made a play, and we didn't when we had to. Tough way to end a game like that, lose a game like that."
The Colts finally will get a break from the Pro Bowl running backs with a bye week starting on Monday.
Even without the task of defending a successful ground attack on the horizon, the Colts will begin preparations shortly for their home battle on October 7 with the Green Bay Packers.
"(The bye) gives us some time to keep working," outside linebacker Jerry Hughes said. "We are going to keep working, keep fighting, trying to get better and just continue to build on what we got."
DEFENSIVE NOTES: *For the third straight week, inside linebacker *Jerrell Freeman led the Colts in tackles. Freeman had nine stops and was followed by fellow inside backer Kavell Conner with seven. Outside linebacker Robert Mathisrecorded a forced fumble of Gabbert on the Jaguars' first possession of the game. The sack was the sixth straight game that Mathis has recorded a quarterback takedown. His personal record is eight consecutive games. Indianapolis did not force a turnover on defense.