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Patience, defense pay off as Colts slip past Jaguars

Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, right, hands the ball off to running back Edgerrin James.
Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, right, hands the ball off to running back Edgerrin James.
AJ Mast, Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have a new winning combination: patience and defense.

With Peyton Manning's wide-open passing game mostly grounded Sunday, the Colts pounded away at Jacksonville, breaking through in the final nine minutes with a 6-yard TD run from Ran Carthon and letting their suddenly stifling defense preserve a 10-3 victory over the Jaguars.

"We need to be able to win games like this," coach Tony Dungy said. "Good teams, if you don't win the championship, you have to win games that go any kind of way."

It wasn't pretty for the Colts (2-0), but it was effective.

Manning, the two-time MVP, was off the mark, overthrowing receivers much of the day and looking out of sync as the Jaguars pressured him. He finished 13-of-28 for 122 yards with one interception and a quarterback rating of 44.0 — his worst regular-season rating since December 2001.

The NFL records some expected to fall this week for most yards passing and touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver tandem never materialized. Manning connected with Marvin Harrison three times for 36 yards, leaving the duo 24 yards and three touchdowns short of their claim to the league's best tandem ever.

Instead, the Colts relied on a persistent running game. Edgerrin James ran 27 times for 128 yards, and Indianapolis used a 17-play drive that consumed nearly nine minutes before Carthon's late TD run finally gave the Colts the lead with 8:27 left.

Still, Indianapolis took the early edge in the AFC South title chase — protecting its home field against the only team to beat it at home last year — and got more help when Carolina beat two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England. That result brought a roar from the stragglers still left inside the dome.

"Every week it seems it's a different test," James said. "We show the fans what we can do."

The Jaguars (1-1) may have lost more than a game.

Byron Leftwich hobbled up the field during the final two minutes, rekindling images from his senior year at Marshall, as he nearly rallied Jacksonville. He got the Jaguars to the Colts 22 before a pass to Jimmy Smith in the end zone was broken up by Bob Sanders on the final play.

Leftwich was injured on the second-to-last series when Raheem Brock sacked him from behind and he was bent him over awkwardly. Leftwich lay on the ground reaching for his knee before limping off the field. He was X-rayed after the game.

"I don't want to say what it is right now, but it wasn't the knee," said Leftwich.