Near the end of the first quarter, with the Colts losing fumbles and giving up sacks, the offense heard boos as it walked off the field. By halftime, the home team led just 6-3.
It wasn’t the kind of bounce-back effort fans had anticipated after the Colts lost 42-20 to New England last week on Sunday Night Football.
But a dominant defense kept giving Andrew Luck and friends chances. A Trent Richardson 1-yard TD run provided cushion, then wide receiver T.Y. Hilton delivered the game’s most memorable moment after a 73-yard touchdown reception.
Hilton had missed warm-ups due to his wife giving birth to their daughter that morning. After scoring, the receiver eschewed his normal “T.Y.” celebration and instead held the football like a baby and started rocking it side to side. He had told his agent he wanted to score for his baby.
The Colts (7-4) were safe and secure at that point against the Jaguars (1-10), whose only points came after a recovered fumble deep in Colts territory during the first quarter. Midway through the final quarter, Jacksonville had it first and goal at the Colts’ 1, yet failed to score.
Perhaps most importantly, the Colts moved one step closer to defending their AFC South Division title with their 11th consecutive division victory, the NFL's longest active streak. Houston lost 22-13 at home to Cincinnati, dropping the Texans (5-6) two games behind the Colts with five to play. The Texans, who have never won in Indianapolis, visit next month. The Colts won 33-28 in Houston on Oct. 9.
Luck’s franchise record of consecutive games with 300-plus passing yards ended at eight. He completed 21-of-32 passes for 253 yards and one score.
The Colts gave up five first-half sacks and lost three fumbles to make the game close early on. Jaguars defensive end Chris Clemons had three of them. Luck lost two fumbles.
But the Jaguars were generous, too. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles was intercepted by Vontae Davis — the Jaguars passer has had an interception in each of his nine NFL games. The Colts also recovered a Denard Robinson fumble.
When the game finally settled down, the Colts took control. And the margin should have been more. New returner Josh Cribbs brought a punt back 82 yards for a touchdown, but it was negated by a penalty.
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked three field goals, giving him 473 in his career, moving past Matt Stover for fifth on the league’s all-time list. The NFL’s oldest player at 41 years of age hasn’t missed in 25 attempts this season. The streak is at 31 dating back to last season.
The Colts return home next Sunday against the Washington Redskins.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.