JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Peyton Manning was perfect when he needed to be against Jacksonville's vaunted defense.
Manning was 14-for-14 for 149 yards on three touchdown drives to lead the Indianapolis Colts to a 24-17 victory Sunday against the previously unbeaten Jaguars.
Jacksonville (3-1) played a fourth consecutive close game — they won the first three by a combined seven points — but couldn't pull this one out.
After Edgerrin James' 3-yard touchdown run gave the Colts a 24-17 lead, Jacksonville drove into Indy territory with less than two minutes to play. But Fred Taylor came up short on fourth-and-1, and the Colts (3-1) ran out the clock from there.
Indy pulled even with Jacksonville in the AFC South but has a distinct edge with road wins over the Jaguars and Titans.
Jacksonville tied the game at 17 with a gutsy call, a perfect pass and a fortunate bounce — and looked to eek out another close one.
Trailing 17-9 early in the fourth quarter, Byron Leftwich connected with Jimmy Smith for a 40-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-1. Smith beat Nick Harper down the sideline, broke a tackle at the 5 and dived into the end zone.
Then Leftwich threw a sharp pass to Brian Jones for the 2-point conversion. Jones bobbled it twice before securing it in a crowd of defenders.
But Manning had plenty of time left.
He was 5-for-5 for 33 yards on the ensuing drive, setting up James' go-ahead score. Manning also was perfect on two other touchdown drives.
He was 5-for-5 for 67 yards on Indy's second possession, which ended with his 15-yard strike to Marvin Harrison. The two have connected for 71 career touchdowns.
And Manning was 4-for-4 for 49 yards, including a precision pass to Marcus Pollard down the middle, for a 16-yard score that gave the Colts a 17-6 lead late in the third quarter.
Manning, last season's co-MVP, entered the game with nine touchdown passes and just one interception. He finished 20-of-29 for 220 yards with two TD passes and an interception.
He wasn't quite as sharp as last week, when he threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns against Green Bay. But he did exactly what he needed to against Jacksonville's defense, which had allowed just 28 points in the first three games.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, missed several scoring chances in the first half that could have changed the outcome.
They had 203 yards of offense and moved the ball with ease against Indy's much-maligned defense, which ranked last in the league after three games against New England, Tennessee and Green Bay.
The Jags' first three possessions could have produced points, but LaBrandon Toefield came up short on fourth-and-1 from the Indianapolis 24. Then Fred Taylor fumbled at the Indy 43, and Josh Scobee pushed a 35-yarder wide right.
Jaguars left tackle Mike Pearson injured his left knee in the third quarter and had to be helped off the field. He did not return.