INDIANAPOLIS – Entering Sunday and having lost two straight, the Indianapolis Colts were without their best receiver and two other players at that position. They also lost their starting running back and were missing their backup, who missed the game with an injury.
None of that stopped the Colts from putting on their best performance of the season in what ended up being an easy 33-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts’ first nine games of the season had been decided by seven points or fewer.
Now they will head into Houston on Thursday in first place in the AFC South and with an opportunity to sweep the Texans.
After not having receiver T.Y. Hilton for four games and quarterback Jacoby Brissett for six quarters, not to mention the season-long problems with Adam Vinatieri, the Colts (6-4) answered an abundance of questions against the Jaguars.
How would Brissett perform two weeks after suffering a strained MCL in his left knee?
Could the Colts keep the Jaguars from getting to him?
Would there be any carryover from the loss to the Dolphins?
The Colts answered their questions without much doubt.
Brissett threw for 148 yards and a touchdown. The Colts offset the Jaguars' pressure with their best rushing game in nearly 15 years. And the defense chipped in by getting two sacks and forcing a turnover.
Indianapolis needed the victory because Sunday began three straight games against division opponents.
Buy a breakout performance: The Colts had their best rushing game in Frank Reich's tenure and most since 2004 as they rushed for 264 yards. Mack rushed for 109 yards on 14 carries until a hand injury knocked him out of the game early in the third quarter. Mack’s injury meant the Colts were without their top two running backs because Jordan Wilkins missed the game with a hamstring injury. Jonathan Williams and Nyheim Hines picked up the slack. Williams, who went into Sunday with just 1 yard rushing on the season, rushed for a career-high 116 yards. The 264 yards rushing as a team were the most for the Colts since they ran for 275 yards against Chicago on Nov. 21, 2004.
Promising: Maybe, just maybe, Vinatieri can fix his season-long kicking woes. He was a perfect 5-of-5 on kicks on Sunday -- four extra points and a field goal. That’s the type of performance Vinatieri needed after general manager Chris Ballard worked out four kickers last week -- bringing the season total of kicker workouts up to 10 -- because the NFL’s all-time leading scorer has struggled so much. Vinatieri went into Sunday having missed 11 kicks, including a league-worst six extra points, this season.