INDIANAPOLIS—There was no changing of the guard. The Indianapolis Colts denied the Jaguars passage, again, in the Jags' pursuit of the AFC South lead.
This most recent defeat at the hands of the Colts, 21-14, makes it three straight and leaves the Jaguars a game behind the Colts in the AFC South title race. Early in Sunday's game, however, it looked like the two teams were going to reverse roles.
The Jaguars were leading, 7-0, and were dominating the action. They were pushing the Colts up and down the field when Terrence Wilkins returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown that tied the game.
"We tip our hat to the Colts. They were the better team today. They held serve at home. We'll see them later in the year," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said.
Del Rio remained supportive of his players, despite a rash of mistakes that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
"I told our team that if you all stick together, when we look back at the end of the season you'll like the results. We'll hold our heads high as we walk out of here," Del Rio said.
There's also a chance the Jaguars will regret what happened at the RCA Dome on Sunday. It's a game they know they should've won. The statistics are proof.
The Jaguars won the first down, total net yards and third-down conversion categories, and thoroughly overwhelmed the Colts in rushing yardage (191-63) and time of possession (39:24-20:36). This is a loss that will be even more difficult for Del Rio and his players to accept when they study the game tape.
"You can paint it a lot of different ways. You get a win or loss as a football team," Del Rio said.
Byron Leftwich had an off day. He was 16 of 28 for 107 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions and a 47.8 passer rating. He overthrew George Wrighster early in the game, resulting in an interception when an accurate throw would've left the Jaguars with nothing worse than goal to go.
Josh Scobee missed on field goal attempts of 24 and 49 yards. The Jaguars kicker is struggling with field goal accuracy and could be at a critical juncture in his career.
Reggie Williams and Vince Manuwai each hurt the Jaguars by being flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The officials could be blamed for overreacting, but referee Pete Morelli's crew was very kind to the Jaguars on a couple of long pass attempts by the Colts.
"A dogfight," Jaguars middle linebacker Mike Peterson called the game. "We didn't get it done. I felt like we had control of the ballgame. They took advantage of our mistakes."
Leftwich didn't make excuses for the offense's failure to score points.
"When you have the ball that long, that much time of possession, you have to come away with more than seven points," Leftwich said.
Rookie running back Maurice Jones-Drew was the star of the game, becoming the seventh player in Jaguars history to rush for 100 yards in a game. Jones-Drew gained 103 yards on 13 carries. He also led the Jaguars with four catches for 32 yards and a touchdown.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning completed less than 50 percent of his passes and posted only a 79.9 passer rating. Manning had to carry the Colts offense, however, because the running game was nearly non-existent.
The Colts took a 14-7 lead in the third quarter when Manning found tight end Dallas Clark for a 30-yard touchdown. Manning saw Clark waving his arms near the right-front corner of the end zone. When he caught the pass, all he had to do was step across the goal line. Obviously, the Jaguars had blown a pass-coverage assignment.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Manning scored the eventual game-winner when he capped a 61-yard drive with a two-yard play-action bootleg run that completely fooled the Jaguars defense.
Leftwich rallied the Jaguars with a 49-yard touchdown drive and got the ball back near midfield with a minute to play, but his long pass for Reggie Williams was intercepted by safety Mike Doss.
The Jaguars travel to Washington next weekend for a critical game. The Colts play the Jets.