With their coach on the hot seat after an 0-3 start, the Jacksonville Jaguars were in danger of squandering a fourth-quarter lead for the second straight week. But quarterback Blake Bortles still felt in command.
Bortles threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another, and Jacksonville's defense turned away Andrew Luck's fourth-quarter comeback in a 30-27 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
Jacksonville (1-3) led 23-6 heading into the fourth quarter but struggled to put away Luck and the Colts (1-3).
Luck threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, including a 64-yard bomb to Phillip Dorsett that cut Jacksonville's lead to 30-27 with three minutes to play. After a Jacksonville three-and-out, Luck drove the Colts near midfield with less than two minutes to play, but Jacksonville defensive back Josh Johnson broke a fourth-down pass with a diving effort to end Indianapolis' rally.
"Too little, too late," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said after the game. "You can't spot a team 17 points, 20 points, and expect to come back and win those type of games."
It's the Jaguars' first win of the season and their second straight over AFC South-rival Indianapolis. And it couldn't have come at a better time for Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley, who was under pressure after a bad start to a season with elevated expectations for the Jaguars. They couldn't hold a fourth-quarter lead in a home loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week, but were able to do this week.
Bortles said the win was particularly big with the pressure on Bradley.
"We're excited about it. We'll celebrate it," Bortles said. "And it feels good to go a week through a preparation, come over here, to handle some different things, with a long flight and to handle some adversity."
Like Bradley, Pagano's job is also under scrutiny. After reaching the AFC Championship Game two years ago, the Colts missed the playoffs last season and have not looked like a contender in this year's 1-3 start.
"Too many penalties, too many missed opportunities, too many dropped balls," Pagano said. "We didn't tackle well. They ran the ball well. We didn't do our job on the defensive side when it had to be done."
Indianapolis running back Frank Gore scored on a 3-yard plunge early in the fourth quarter to trim the Jacksonville lead to 23-13. Gore's touchdown capped a nine-play, 73-yard drive that gave the Colts life.
Using a no-huddle, up-tempo attack, Luck drove Indianapolis deep into Jacksonville territory on its next possession. The Colts capitalized on a pass interference call on Jaguars defensive back Davon House, and Luck capped the drive with a short touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton to bring Indianapolis within three, 23-20, with seven minutes to play.
The Jaguars answered quickly, though, with Bortles connecting with Hurns on a short out rout that turned into a big play. Hurns cut back across the field and raced away from the Colts defense for a 42-yard touchdown, his first of the season.
"We felt in control of the game and felt that we had an opportunity to end it," Bortles said.
Luck, who was sacked six times, completed 27 of 42 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
"Probably everybody feels like they played better in that second half," Luck said. "But again it's not enough."
A crowd of 83,764 sang and cheered at America's brand of football, which continues to grow in popularity in England. The NFL has been considering moving a franchise to London and has pinpointed 2022 as a potential timeframe. Jacksonville is frequently mentioned as a candidate to relocate to London. Sunday's game marked the fourth straight season the Jaguars have hosted a game at Wembley Stadium. Jacksonville has agreed to play at least one home game in London through 2022.
Bortles said the pro-Jaguars crowd made it feel like a true home game. He celebrated his touchdown run by attempting to punt the ball into the stands.
"I heard it didn't even make it into the stands," Bortles said. "I was trying to give someone from London an American football. If anything, it was an embarrassment to soccer, because it wasn't a very good kick."
Jacksonville held the Colts to 47 passing yards and sacked Luck three times in the first half. Yannick Ngakoue picked off Luck on a deflection and returned it to the Indianapolis 24 to set up the Jaguars touchdown. Bortles found Robinson on a 3-yard slant to give Jacksonville a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Bortles added to the lead with a short touchdown run off a read-option, and Jason Myers hit a short field to close out the second quarter to send the Jaguars into halftime with a 17-6 advantage.
Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri booted a pair of field goals in the first half and has made 33 straight kicks, the longest active streak in the NFL.
NOTES: The NFL has been playing games at Wembley Stadium in London since 2007. The Washington Redskins will play the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 30 at Wembley Stadium. ... Jacksonville TE Julius Thomas was inactive with an elbow injury. ... Indianapolis CB Antonio Cromartie left the game late in the first half with a shoulder injury. ... Jacksonville LG Luke Joeckel left the game in the first half with a knee injury and did not return.