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Colts seeking improvement after beating Jags 23-3

November 24, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck’s finishing touch still needs some work.

After throwing for 253 yards and one touchdown in Sunday’s 23-3 victory over Jacksonville, the Colts’ franchise quarterback and master perfectionist contended the Colts must buckle down and figure out how to reach the end zone more often.

“We didn’t do enough to finish drives today,” Luck lamented after getting knocked around by the league’s best red-zone defense.

It’s been a recurring theme for the Colts (7-4).

Last week, New England scored six times, all touchdowns, while Indy settled for field goals and empty possessions. The result was a 42-20 loss.

On Sunday, the Jags kept Indy out of the end zone until early in the third quarter, when Trent Richardson finally plunged in from 1 yard out to turn a 6-3 lead into a 13-3 cushion. Two minutes later, Luck threw a 73-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton to make it 20-3.

That was it. On the Colts’ four other trips inside the Jags’ 20, they got three field goals and lost a fumble. In Luck’s world, that’s nowhere near good enough.

“We understand there’s stuff to clean up, a lot of stuff to clean up,” he said. “Some bad balls out there, at times, but that’s what practice is for.”

Luck finished 21 of 32, but had his streak of consecutive games with 300 yards end at eight. That’s one short of Drew Brees’ NFL record. Indy won its’ 11th straight over an AFC South foe.

Jacksonville (1-10), meanwhile, lost its fourth in a row and its fifth straight to the Colts.

While the defense forced six fumbles, recovered three and sacked Luck five times, the offense was dreadful.

Blake Bortles finished 15 of 27 for 146 yards — accounting for more than half that total on Jacksonville’s final drive — and had one pass intercepted. The Jags rushed for 80 yards, had 194 total yards, their second-lowest output of the season, and scored their only points on a 28-yard field goal that capped a 2-yard drive in the first quarter.

That’s it.

“They’re the No. 1 ranked offensive team in the league,” Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley said. “If we give them pressure and you’re getting the ball and you got opportunities and you’re on a roll, all those good things happen, we have to take advantage of them.”

Here are some other takeaways from Sunday:

SLOPPY START: Nobody took more abuse early than Luck, who was sacked five times, fumbled three times and lost two of those. Sure, the miscues can be blamed on the absence of two key blockers who were out with injuries. But if the Colts want to go deep into the playoffs, they must protect Luck better. Apparently, they got the message at halftime. Luck wasn’t sacked at all in the second half and was barely touched.

NOT RUNNING IT UP: Coach Chuck Pagano made it clear the Colts had no intention of running up the score when they were throwing in the final minutes. Instead, he said he was trying to get Reggie Wayne three catches to extend his streak of consecutive three-reception games to 82 on a day that Wayne tied John Unitas for the second-most games played in Colts history (206). Pagano said he explained that to Bradley after the game, too.

SOLID DEFENSE: Luck and Pagano were both impressed by the Jags’ ability to defend and pressure Luck, and their overall ability to make things tough. They credited Jacksonville for making those plays.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Colts still have visions of a first-round bye. Denver and New England both lead their divisions and Indy would lose head-to-head tiebreakers with either or both. But Indy has a favorable schedule with only two teams left on the schedule with winning records, Cleveland and Dallas.

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