JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Indianapolis and Jacksonville are in all-too-familiar positions.
The Colts are unbeaten after six games for the third consecutive year and alone atop the AFC South. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are once again chasing the defending Super Bowl champs.
And the gap may be wider than ever.
Yep, all that talk about Indianapolis being better this season just might be true.
The Colts dominated every aspect of their showdown against Jacksonville on Monday night, easily winning 29-7 and once again taking charge in a division they’ve controlled the last four years.
“This was a pivotal game for us,” quarterback Peyton Manning said. “We put a lot of emphasis on this game.”
It showed, too.
Joseph Addai and Kenton Keith combined for 141 yards rushing, Manning and Reggie Wayne picked apart Jacksonville’s secondary, and the Colts (6-0) avenged their most embarrassing loss of last season.
Indianapolis also improved to 3-0 in the division and left Jacksonville (4-2), Tennessee and Houston trying to make up ground again.
“We’re in the front seat, we’re driving and everybody has to play catch-up to us,” defensive end Ed Johnson said.
The Colts joined Green Bay (1929-31) and St. Louis (1999-2001) as the only teams to start 6-0 for three straight years. They made this one look easy, backing up assertions by Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy and Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio that the Colts are simply better than they were last year.
But not all the Jaguars were ready to give Indy that much credit.
“They executed the best and made the least amount of mistakes, but I don’t think they’re better than they were last year,” running back Fred Taylor said. “We kind of stubbed our own toe a little bit.”
The Colts knocked quarterback David Garrard out of the game -- and out of the lineup for at least a couple of weeks -- bottled up Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew and extended their winning streak to 11 games.
Taylor and Jones-Drew spearheaded last year’s 44-17 rout in Jacksonville. The Jaguars ran for a franchise-record 375 yards -- a defensive meltdown that proved to be a turning point for Indy. The team fixed its run defense down the stretch en route to winning the Super Bowl.
Jacksonville tried to catch the Colts off guard from the start Monday night, calling on Garrard to throw on eight of the first 11 plays. It backfired. Jacksonville’s lackluster receivers dropped several balls, and then Garrard left the game because of a badly sprained left ankle.
Meanwhile, Manning was Manning.
He had plenty of time to throw and, with Marvin Harrison still nursing a sore knee, hooked up with Wayne all over the field. Manning finished 23-of-37 for 259 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for a score. Wayne caught nine passes for 131 yards.
“They don’t really give up too many big plays,” Manning said. “They do try and make you go the long route, and we did that. It was nice to finish some of those drives with touchdowns.”
Indianapolis built a 17-0 halftime lead with three long drives. Manning exposed Jacksonville’s secondary, and Addai and Keith picked up crucial yards between the tackles.
Jacksonville’s lone touchdown, a 1-yard run by Jones-Drew, followed his 65-yard kickoff return to start the second half.
Little else went right for the Jaguars, who failed to convert two fourth-down plays in the first half, gave up three sacks and finished with three turnovers.
Garrard was 8-of-12 for 72 yards. Gray was 9-of-24 for 56 yards with two interceptions and a fumble. Now, he moves into a starting role while Garrard recovers and the Jaguars chase Indy -- again.
“It’s definitely a setback,” Jags receiver Ernest Wilford said. “But we’ve got a good football nucleus here.”
Indianapolis 7 10 2 10 - 29
Jacksonville 0 0 7 0 - 7
Ind-Keith 3 run (Vinatieri kick), :27.
Ind-"Manning 1 run (Vinatieri kick), 5:25.
Ind-FG Vinatieri 36, :29.
Jac-Jones-Drew 1 run (Carney kick), 9:23.
Ind-Safety, Gray sacked in end zone by Freeney, 4:35.
Ind-FG Vinatieri 20, 13:34.
Ind-Clark 35 pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick), 3:58.
|Total Net Yards||386||226|
|Time of Possession34:07||25:53|
RUSHING-Indianapolis, Addai 16-85, Keith 15-56, Manning 2-0. Jacksonville, Taylor 11-55, Jones-Drew 13-52, Gray 2-8, G.Jones 1-2.
PASSING-Indianapolis, Manning 23-37-1-259. Jacksonville, Garrard 8-12-0-72, Gray 9-24-2-56.
RECEIVING-Indianapolis, Wayne 9-131, Clark 4-66, Addai 4-22, Harrison 3-16, Keith 2-16, Utecht 1-8. Jacksonville, Wilford 6-53, Northcutt 3-20, Jones-Drew 3-17, Lewis 2-13, Estandia 1-22, Wrighster 1-5, Taylor 1-(minus 2).
MISSED FIELD GOALS-None.