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Big second half helps the Colts beat the Jaguars 23-3

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Andrew Luck gets a pass off despite pressure from a Jaguars defender.

INDIANAPOLIS – Once again, they are at the right place at the right time on the schedule.

About two months ago the Colts were reeling a bit after dropping their first two games of the season. Tough losses to the Broncos and the Eagles had fans and pundits wondering if this team was really worthy of Super Bowl consideration.

Then came the Jaguars and a blowout 44-17 victory that wasn’t as close as that score would indicate. Another four consecutive wins followed.

Once again the Colts have been written off after a lackluster performance in a nationally televised loss to the Patriots at home. Chuck Pagano’s team has gone from February hopes to January doubts in the minds of many as the stretch run of the regular season approaches.

Guess who is waiting for them again? Yup, 1-9 Jacksonville and at home, too.

It wasn’t so easy in the first half as it was back in September, when the Colts led 30-0 at halftime. Bad line protection and three turnovers kept it a game longer than perhaps it should have been.

But the final 30 minutes were a better showing for the offense and the defense’s strong play all game helped produce a 23-3 victory over Jacksonville Sunday afternoon.

The Colts improve to 7-4 on the season and thanks to a loss by the Texans have a two-game lead in the AFC South with five games left. As it has been with this Colts team at times the win comes with drama–but at least it’s a win.

“Just you’ve got to do more. You’ve got to do better. There’s always something, we’re going to look at the tape, win or lose, there’s always things to clean up,” said Pagano. “Great win. Great team win. Still ahead in our division. We know the easiest way to get in the tournament is to win the division. That’s our No. 1 goal.”

Andrew Luck was heavily pressured for much of the first half and on the opening drive he fumbled after a sack by Chris Clemons. Vontae Davis made up for it by picking off a Blake Bortles pass but another sack of Luck forced the Colts to settle for a 46-yard field goal to make it 3-0.

Indianapolis wasn’t so lucky later in the quarter when Luck fumbled after another sack and the Jaguars took over at the Colts’ 12-yard line. The defense held to force a Josh Scobee field goal to tie the game at three.

“Hard to get stuff going, that’s a good defense, that’s a good front four. We had our share of some self-inflicted penalties and didn’t do a good job taking care of the football, but a lot of those are because of what they did,” said Luck of the start. “A lot of credit goes to what they did on defense in stifling us early.”

Still sputtering most of the half, the Colts were able to manufacture a 52-yard drive late in the first half that got inside the Jacksonville 5-yard line. But the offense couldn’t get in the endzone and the Colts settled for another Vinatieri field goal and a 6-3 halftime lead.

The Colts finally were able to hit pay dirt in the third quarter when the defense got the ball at the Jaguars’ 38-yard line by forcing and recovering a fumble. Trent Richardson ended the short drive with a one-yard touchdown run to put the Colts up 13-3.

Getting to the endzone was a little more dynamic on the next possession when Luck hit T.Y. Hilton down the sidelines for a 73-yard score to make it 20-3. Hilton’s celebration was quite poignant–he pretended the football was a baby and he was trying to comfort it. The touchdown came just hours after Hilton’s wife gave birth to a girl.

“I was holding her about 11:15, just rocking her and then I said ‘Baby, you want the game ball or do you want a touchdown ball?’ That was my goal to get both of those,” said Hilton.

Another Vinatieri field goal in the fourth quarter made for the final margin as the Colts again righted the ship against the Jaguars.