Jaguars trying to end Colts perfect season
David Garrard threw a 13-yard strike to Mike Thomas for his third touchdown pass to give the Jacksonville Jaguars a 31-28 lead over the undefeated Indianapolis Colts after three quarters Thursday night.
Peyton Manning also had three TD passes for the Colts, who are trying to reach 14-0 for the first time in franchise history.
The wild game had nine lead changes and no punts through three quarters.
Manning had thrown 20 times and only one ball was not caught. That included 13 straight completions to start the game, followed by a tipped interception by linebacker Daryl Smith.
The Jaguars (7-6), who have lost seven of their last nine games against the Colts, still control the final wild-card spot in the AFC, although a loss would severely damage their postseason hopes.
Manning's only mistake wasn't his own. Dallas Clark bobbled a pass over the middle just long enough for safety Reggie Nelson to tip it forward and into the hands of Smith. Garrard barely got the first down on a 4-and-1 sneak, and he found Mike Sims-Walker on a post play for a 16-yard touchdown to give the Jaguars the lead early in the third.
No lead lasted very long in this game.
Manning, who was 18 of 20 for 202 yards, quickly moved the Colts down the field behind a 21-yard completion to Reggie Wayne for yet another third-down conversion, and a 27-yard touchdown pass to Clark, who bounced off a hit by Nelson and split a seam as he dove into the end zone.
Thomas, a rookie receiver from Arizona, took over from there. After returning the kickoff 43 yards to give Jacksonville good field position, he caught pass over the middle for a 31-28 lead.
Garrard was 18 of 26 for 175 yards.
Chad Simpson returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown for the Colts, who have won 22 consecutive regular-season games and already have clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell had said only healthy players would start, and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis - both on the injury report as questionable - played sparingly until the end of the half.
The opening quarter must have been an aberration - one possession for each team, no penalties, no turnovers, no punts, no incompletions and only a 50-yard field goal by Josh Scobee that gave Jacksonville a 3-0 lead.
Then, both teams put up points without must resistance on a cool night along the banks of the St. Johns River. After three quarters, it already was the third-highest scoring game between these teams.
The Colts capped off their long, methodical opening drive of the game when Manning found a sliding Clark in the back of the end zone for a 9-yard score early in the second quarter. Manning threw the ball behind Clark, who bobbled it off his right hip and his shoulder pad before hanging on for a 7-3 lead.
Garrard brought the Jaguars right back down the field behind Maurice Jones-Drew. On second-and-goal from the 9, Garrard rolled left, took off running to the right and appeared to have no one open until Jones-Drew broke free from a pack and got behind linebacker Clint Session to pull in the touchdown pass.
Jones-Drew later scored on a 3-yard run for his 15th rushing touchdown of the season, breaking the team record held by Fred Taylor, who had 14 in 1998.
But the Jaguars couldn't keep Indianapolis from scoring quickly.
With the Colts trailing 10-7, Simpson took the kickoff in the middle of the field at the 7, made one move through a huge seam on the left side and ran untouched down the left side, into the end zone and through the tunnel.
After the Jaguars regained the lead on Jones-Drew's short TD run, Manning needed just over two minutes to take the Colts 68 yards, completing a 22-yard pass to Wayne and capping off the scoring drive with a 23-yard TD pass to Austin Collie over the middle.
The first half was so cleanly played that it took just over an hour, and there were no punts. The only drive that didn't end in a touchdown was the Jaguars' first series, when Eric Foster stripped Garrard from his blind side on third-and-1 from the 22. The Jaguars recovered, setting up Scobee's long field goal.
Jacksonville is playing its final home game of the year, and it was the first time all year the game wasn't blacked out locally.
There was a moment of silence before the game to honor Chris Henry, the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver who died Thursday from injuries after he fell out of the back of a moving pickup truck driven by his fiancee.