Andrew Luck, Robert Mathis lead Colts in blowout of Jaguars
December 29, 2013 (AP) – Indianapolis tried everything to move up in the AFC’s playoff pecking order.
It looks like the Colts will still come up short.
Andrew Luck threw for 282 yards and one touchdown, Robert Mathis reclaimed the NFL sacks lead and Adam Vinatieri became the seventh member of the NFL’s 2,000-point club Sunday as the Colts routed Jacksonville 30-10 before watching their longshot hope of earning a first-round playoff bye vanish in Cincinnati.
Not that the Colts cared much about what was going on with the Bengals or Patriots.
“We’re in the playoffs and that’s what matters,” Luck said before knowing next weekend’s pairings. “We get to play at home, so it will be fun to not have to wait around to play.”
That will have to suffice for now after handing the Jaguars (4-12) their third straight loss.
An Indy win coupled with losses by New England and Cincinnati would have vaulted the Colts into the No. 2 spot. An improbable home loss by the Patriots, to heavy underdog Buffalo, could still send Indy to No. 3.
Coach Chuck Pagano promised his team would not watch the scoreboard, and it was clear they did not until the game ended. Instead, the Colts were focused on keeping their momentum.
“They always talk about December being the second most important month in football and we went out and went 4-1,” Pagano said. “I have no idea, unless you guys have any updates, but we know we have a home game. So we’ll wait to see what happens.”
Indy (11-5) is now playing its best football of the year.
After alternating wins and losses for six straight weeks, the Colts rebounded with three straight routs. They’ve matched their longest winning streak of the season and their 11-win total from last season, appear rejuvenated on offense and defense and seem to be enjoying themselves mightily.
Luck was 26 of 37 for 282 yards, shattering Cam Newton’s record for yards passing (7,920) in a player’s first two seasons and becoming the first player in league history to top 8,000 yards during that span. Luck finished his second season with 8,196 yards.
T.Y. Hilton caught 11 passes for 155 yards, both career highs.
Mathis, who led the league in sacks most of the season, retook the lead by sacking Chad Henne once in each half to give him 19 1/2. A third sack was awarded to Jerrell Freeman, though it appeared Mathis made the initial contact. Robert Quinn of St. Louis, who could pass Mathis, played later at Seattle.
Vinatieri, long dubbed the best clutch kicker in league history, delivered another strong performance. The 41-year-old made three field goals and scored 12 points to move into fifth all-time with 2,006 points — passing George Blanda (2,002) and Matt Stover (2,004).
Indy’s performance was darn near perfect.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, never seriously challenged the Colts.
Henne finished 30 of 51 for 331 yards with one TD and one interception but couldn’t get the Jaguars into the end zone until hooking up with Kerry Taylor on a 14-yard TD pass with 16 seconds left. Taylor caught eight passes for 75 yards.
Maurice Jones-Drew, who is now likely to hit the free-agent market, ran 13 times for 39 yards and caught five passes for 51 yards. Jacksonville’s defense couldn’t get Indy’s offense stopped consistently either — until the Colts let off the gas pedal in the second half.
“We didn’t execute very well today,” first-year coach Gus Bradley said. “Everybody took their turns. We missed some reads. We missed some route combinations. We missed tackles. We missed some assignments.”
It didn’t take long to notice what was wrong.
Donald Brown scored on a leaping 1-yard TD run, Trent Richardson followed that with a 2-yard TD run and Vinatieri booted a 23-yard field goal to make it 17-0 after one.
Jacksonville looked like it would get back into the game after a 37-yard field goal and Henne got them into scoring position late in the first half. But Henne was picked off by Antoine Bethea, which set up Vinatieri’s milestone field goal.
Luck opened the second half with a 7-yard TD pass to former college teammate Griff Whalen. That was good enough for the Colts.
“I’m glad we’re playing decent football going into the postseason,” Luck said. “We know the postseason’s a whole different ball game and one-and-done. But to finish the regular season strong with these wins has been good.”
*Photo courtesy of Gregory Shamus/Getty Images