JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Indianapolis Colts are defending Super Bowl champions, have a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Peyton Manning, and -- after a 29-7 victory over Jacksonville on Monday -- are 6-0 for a third consecutive season.
Still, they're playing in the shadow of the New England Patriots.
That makes the Colts the Greatest Sideshow on Turf.
While the rest of the football world ponders whether the 7-0 Patriots can match the perfection of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis keeps clearing hurdles. The Colts aren't winning with the merciless efficiency of New England, but they're winning. Mention the Patriots, who they face at the RCA Dome in two weeks, and the Colts can't change the subject quick enough.
"I've seen them play on TV but haven't watched any tape," said Coach Tony Dungy, whose team plays at Carolina on Sunday. "To be honest, this was our big focus. . . . We're not going to fall into that trap. I reminded the team in there that four years ago we won a big Monday night game on the road, had to come back and play Carolina on six days' rest, and we didn't win. So we'll focus on that."
Receiver Reggie Wayne doesn't seem to mind getting less attention than the NFL's other undefeated team.
"It's perfect," he said. "It's less talk that we have to have. In the past, we always hear about the opportunity for the Colts to go 16-0, and everybody is always in our locker room. Now, we get a chance to just play football and not worry about that kind of talk."
Clearly, the Colts are handling their business just fine. Last December, they stumbled to a 44-17 defeat at Jacksonville, giving up 375 yards on the ground. This time the Jaguars finished with only 117 yards rushing.
"Obviously, they watched the film from last year and just remembered that feeling," Manning said. "I think it's pretty natural for a competitive athlete to want to come back down here in the same environment . . . answer the challenge and play better."
Jacksonville (4-2), which had won four in a row, wound up losing more than the game.
Quarterback David Garrard left in the second quarter with an injured ankle. His replacement, Quinn Gray, accounted for two interceptions and a fumble while throwing for only 56 yards.
Then it was running back Maurice Jones-Drew hobbling off with an apparent knee injury. He was one of the few effective offensive weapons for Jacksonville, scoring the lone touchdown on a one-yard run after setting that up with a 65-yard kickoff return.
Coach Jack Del Rio said after the game that he wasn't nearly as concerned about Jones-Drew's injury as he was about Garrard, who, at the least, will miss Sunday's game against Tampa Bay.
In the week leading up to the game, several Jaguars groused they didn't get the respect they deserved. Linebacker Mike Peterson said whenever the Jaguars make the national highlight broadcasts "we'll be the last team they show; not Jags win, [but] Jones-Drew had a big day."
On Monday, neither happened. Though not known for their running game, the Colts showed they can collect the grind-it-out yards to control the clock. They gained 141 yards in 33 carries, and Manning and Kenton Keith scored on short touchdown runs. The only touchdown pass was a 35-yarder to tight end Dallas Clark.
By winning at Jacksonville, the Colts have already beaten all three AFC South opponents -- Tennessee, Houston and the Jaguars -- in their home stadiums. Last December the Colts lost on the road to each of their division foes.
"I think that speaks of our team," Dungy said. "I thought Houston, Tennessee and Jacksonville, from what I could see of the tape, were all better than they were last year. So I think we're playing a little bit better, and we're going to have to play better the rest of the year."
Especially with New England coming to town in two weeks.
Not that the Colts have noticed.