Jacksonville, Fla. Peyton Manning completed every pass early and one big one late, exactly what the Indianapolis Colts needed to stay unbeaten.
Manning threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns, including a 65-yarder to Reggie Wayne to go ahead for good, and the Colts beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 35-31, on Thursday night to improve to 14-0 for the first time in franchise history.
The wild game on a cool night included 714 yards, 43 first downs, 10 lead changes, six punts, several big plays and just two turnovers.
“This was an old-time shootout at the OK Corral,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell said.
Jacksonville had a chance to win it in the closing minutes, but David Garrard overthrew Mike Thomas on a third-and-10 play with about a minute to play. Jacob Lacey intercepted the ball, and the Colts ran out the clock.
Indianapolis extended its NFL-record winning streak in the regular season to 23 and became the third 14-0 team in league history, joining the 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2007 New England Patriots. New Orleans can join the list with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night.
“This is who we are,” Wayne said. “We’re built for 60 minutes. It won’t be pretty all the time, but we’re getting it done.”
The Jaguars (7-7) lost for the third time in four games and no longer control their fate in the AFC wild-card race.
“We were close, so close, to being in this locker room celebrating,” cornerback Derek Cox said. “But there’s no moral victories. It’s about winning ... It’s not in our hands anymore. But we still have two games left.”
They have Manning to thank for the latest setback, which spoiled the team’s only home game not blacked out on local television this season.
He completed his first 13 passes and was nearly as efficient as he was in last year’s game in Jacksonville, when he completed 17 in a row.
Manning finished 23-of-30, picking apart Jacksonville’s secondary early and often. His only real mistake wasn’t even his fault. Dallas Clark bobbled a pass that Reggie Nelson tipped and Daryl Smith intercepted in the third quarter. The Jaguars turned the error into a touchdown and a 24-21 lead.
But it was short-lived.
Manning answered with an 80-yard drive, hitting Wayne with consecutive passes and later finding Clark across the middle for a 27-yard score. Wayne caught five passes for 132 yards. Clark had seven receptions for 95 yards and two scores.
Special teams chipped in, too. Chad Simpson returned a second-quarter kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to put Indy ahead, 14-10.
The Jaguars, who have lost eight of 10 in the series, ended up in a shootout with Manning & Co. — a huge mistake for a team built to run the ball and take advantage of play-action passes.