INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts hoped on Sunday to fix some of their flaws in time for the AFC playoffs. They settled for a win.
|Marvin Harrison's six catches for 28 yards brings his total to 143 receptions.(AP)|
For Colts coach Tony Dungy, it was good enough.
"That was a big win for us, an important win for us," he said. "We had to play 60 minutes of football, and that's kind of the way you want it."
A thing of beauty, it was not.
The Colts (10-6) struggled early on offense and couldn't stop the Jaguars' ground game, either.
Indianapolis needed two Jacksonville penalties to keep late scoring drives going in the game's final minutes and also took advantage of a late melee, in which the teams were called for offsetting personal fouls. That allowed the Colts to run another play on third-and-4, and Manning hooked up with Marcus Pollard in the back corner of the end zone for the game-winner.
It wasn't the design the Colts had plotted for their regular-season finale, nor the tuneup they envisioned for next week's first-round game at the New York Jets.
But it was effective.
Peyton Manning went 20-of-28 for a modest 146 yards and a touchdown.
Edgerrin James followed his worst career game with a performance more worthy of a two-time NFL rushing champ. He carried 15 times for 86 yards and finished 11 short of his third 1,000-yard season and a $1.5 million bonus.
"I don't want to sit there and then go out next week wondering if I'm ready," James said in his first interview with the local media since the regular season began. "The bottom line is, I got myself back together."
Even Harrison, who has had arguably the best season of any receiver in NFL history, wasn't himself.
He caught six passes for a season-low 28 yards to finish his record-breaking year with 143 receptions and 1,722 yards -- the fourth-most in league history. He came out after injuring his left arm in the third quarter but returned on the Colts' next series.
The Jaguars (6-10) certainly didn't play like one of four AFC teams eliminated from playoff contention before the weekend started -- or like a team about to go through a housecleaning -- coach Tom Coughlin's job could be in jeopardy.
Quarterback Mark Brunell, who also has worried about his future in Jacksonville, missed the game because of a strained right hamstring.
Rookie David Garrard replaced Brunell in the lineup and was 13-of-26 for 135 yards while running 11 times for 44 yards. And the defense created havoc for the Colts, who never really got in sync offensively.
"I was proud of the way we played," Coughlin said. "I was proud of our competitiveness and the way we prepared to play coming in here."
But the Jaguars made a lot of mistakes, too.
With Jacksonville leading 10-3 and 1:01 left in the first half, Dwight Freeney forced a Garrard fumble and Idrees Bashir recovered at the Jaguars 23. Four plays later, James Mungro ran 1 yard to tie the score at 10.
After Danny Boyd kicked a 23-yard field goal to give Jacksonville a 13-10 lead with 13:55 remaining in the game, the Jaguars appeared to have Indianapolis stopped -- until a running into the kicker penalty gave the ball back to the Colts.
Manning took advantage, scrambling for 8 yards on a fourth-and-1 and hooking up with Troy Walters for a 13-yard completion on third-and-9. Four plays later, Mike Vanderjagt's 27-yard field goal tied the score at 13.
Walters' 16-yard punt return set up the game-winning drive.
Again it appeared the Colts had been stopped at the Jaguars 24, but rookie John Henderson was called for a personal foul that gave Indianapolis a first down at the Jacksonville 12.
Manning needed only three plays -- and the melee that wiped out a holding penalty on the Colts -- to find Pollard for the game-winner and give the Colts a more upbeat attitude entering the playoffs.
"We knew a win would secure the fifth spot. That's what we wanted," Manning said. "Now everybody is feeling good about themselves."
- Freeney had two sacks, giving him 13 for the season. That broke the Colts' franchise record of 12, set by Chad Bratzke in 1999, and gave him the second-most by a rookie in NFL history. Jevon Kearse had 14½ in 1999.
- Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith moved past Ozzie Newsome and into 18th place on the NFL's career reception list. Smith has 664 receptions, Newsome had 662. He also passed Raymond Berry for 20th in all-time yards. Smith has 9,284, nine more than Berry.
The Associated Press News Service
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