JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Indianapolis Colts became the latest team to hammer the Jacksonville Jaguars at home, winning 27-10 on Thursday night behind two rushing touchdowns from rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
Darius Butler returned an interception for a score as the Colts (6-3) won their fourth consecutive game and snapped a three-game losing streak in the series. The Jaguars (1-8) have lost six straight.
The Colts had cause for concern following an emotional victory four days earlier, one in which cancer-stricken coach Chuck Pagano delivered a passionate, postgame speech in the locker room. Interim coach Bruce Arians was worried the team might crash from the emotional high.
Not even close.
Indianapolis scored on three consecutive possessions in the first half, opening a 17-0 lead that started emptying the stands at EverBank Field early.
Luck ran for two touchdowns and Adam Vinatieri added a field goal in the first half.
Luck was surgical in the opening half, keeping drives alive with several long passes.
He scored on a close fourth-and-goal sneak for his second touchdown, prompting Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey to throw his play sheet as he ran onto the field arguing for a review.
He was assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and told the play was reviewed and the ruling on the field confirmed.
That seven-play, 61-yard drive was set up by the Colts winning a challenge on a fumble by Laurent Robinson.
It was a microcosm of another abysmal half for the Jags in recent weeks.
Aside from the coaching staff losing two key challenges, Blaine Gabbert also had several passes dropped, and there was a costly false start penalty late in the half inside the red zone that caused the Jags to settle for a field goal as the offense struggled.
The Jaguars went three-and-out on their first two drives of the game, before using a few long passes and a scramble by Gabbert to get inside the Colts 30.
The drive stalled, though, and kicker Josh Scobee missed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide right. It would have given him a franchise-record 21 straight made field goals.
Jacksonville appeared to intercept Luck on the first play of the ensuing Colts series, but the interception was nullified by a roughing the passer penalty on defensive tackle Terrance Knighton.
The Jags defense did intercept Luck late in the half, but otherwise put little pressure on him.
Indianapolis was without six starters, including both of its starting cornerbacks, two offensive linemen, their starting tight end and All-Pro defensive end Robert Mathis.
Still, they entered the night riding a three-game winning streak, including close wins in consecutive games engineered by the rookie Luck.
It was the sixth game the Colts played without Pagano, whose leukemia diagnosis in October has definitely inspired his team.
Playing in his first prime time game, Luck was one the most recent players to shave his head in his coachs honor, joining more than three dozen others.
The Jaguars came into the matchup hoping to continue their three-game win streak in the series.
Butler intercepted Gabbert and returned it 11 yards for a touchdown as the Colts increased their lead to 24-3 at the end of the third quarter.
It was the second big defensive play of the game for the cornerback, who recovered a fumble in the second quarter that led to a score.
The Jaguars, who struggled offensively all game, seemed to finally be making some traction on their ensuing drive thanks to a 52-yard pass to Cecil Shorts that put them inside the Colts 30.
But a sack and holding penalty on consecutive plays led to a punt.
Jacksonville had the advantage of home teams boasting a 6-2 mark in Thursday night games this season, after going 7-2 in those prime-time games in 2011.
It was the Jaguars annual Salute to Service Military Appreciation Game.