INDIANAPOLIS –To win a fourth straight game, Indianapolis had to do so on a five-day week that included travel to a divisional site.
Road teams on Thursday Night games had not fared particularly well since the NFL Network started doing games a few seasons back.
Home teams had won more than two-thirds of the time and with the Colts coming off a grueling win over Miami, Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians harped all week on rest, recovery and respecting the process of getting prepared to face the Jaguars.
On Friday with a 27-10 victory in the team's pocket, Arians was happy with his players.
"After watching the tape, I was really pleased with the effort we put forth in all three phases of the game," said Arians. "The defensive line, I thought, dominated the game. The offensive line, we ran the ball pretty effectively. … I can't say enough about the young guys preparing on the short week and the veteran leadership that got them ready.
"We made errors. We made some stupid plays in the fourth quarter offensively and defensively. At that point, it didn't cost us the game, but they will cost us the game down the road. We have a lot of things to clean up, but a lot of things to build on."
Indianapolis zipped to a 17-0 lead, endured a bit of a slow stretch and closed out the win with a sustained field goal drive that ate six minutes off the clock.
The team rushed for 138 yards, getting two scores from the legs of Andrew Luck, while receiver T.Y. Hilton rushed for 30 yards.
More traditionally, running backs Vick Ballard (12-48), Donald Brown (14-42) and Delone Carter (2-7) contributed to the cause and for the third time this season, the Colts produced 10 or more first downs via the rush.
"I think it's huge," said Arians of the pop seen in the rushing game and benefit it provided the attack. "We had nice balance last night. The running game set all that up. The ability to run and to be able to run the ball on more than third-and-two and be competent in it, that's something I don't have a big history in. It's very gratifying."
Seven times in the first half and on all three drives that produced 17 points, Indianapolis converted first downs on the ground. Twice on first-and-10, the club got 11- and 19-yard chunks. Ballard and Hilton provided those bursts, and Hilton added an 11-yarder on first down in the second half.
Carter converted two third-and-two situations in the game, while Ballard was successful on second-and-three and second-and-five chances. Brown converted a second-and-four as well.
"I think it means a lot to that offensive line, tight end blocking unit that it's third-and two-and-a-half and you call a power play that, 'Hey, we have a chance to get this.' We've been pretty successful. Delone (Carter) has done a heck of a job running the ball in those situations," said Arians.
Guard Joe Reitz was on a line that had two different starters at Jacksonville with A.Q. Shipley at center and Jeff Linkenbach at right tackle. Shipley and Linkenbach played for injured starters Samson Satele and Winston Justice. Reitz feels the team is growing with a second straight road win.
"I think so. The continued goal is to get better every week," said Reitz. "The team and coaches have talked about not having a rearview mirror. We continue to press on, move forward and enjoy the process. Enjoy practice during the week in getting ready, then going out and doing it on Sunday.
"It's great whenever you get a road win, but a division road win is hard to come by. It was a team win, and we're proud of it."
A schedule that features four of the remaining seven games on the road starts next week at New England. Away dates also come in Detroit, Houston and Kansas City. Indianapolis still has AFC South home games remaining with Houston and Tennessee. Buffalo awaits the Colts after New England.
Arians knows the club must remain competitive away from home.
"There's no doubt. The remainder of the schedule, the majority is on the road," said Arians. "Unless something crazy would happen and we got into the playoffs, it would probably be on the road. Just learning to win on the road…will be a huge challenge."
After the Jacksonville win, Luck commented things only will get harder for the Colts as the season progresses. When informed today of his quarterback's assessment, Arians was able with an ever-ready quip.
"He's a bright guy (laughs). He knows. They know. I think they're all looking forward to it," said Arians.