INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts are going back to the playoffs.
But they didn't make it easy on themselves in getting there, as Indianapolis didn't put the Jacksonville Jaguars away until less than five minutes remained in a game in which rookie running back Jonathan Taylor set a franchise rushing record in the Colts' 28-14 victory.
This will be just the second playoff appearance for the Colts since 2014, when they reached the AFC Championship Game.
As good as it feels to finish with an 11-5 record, their best since 2014, the Colts are heading into the postseason not as a team that should strike fear in contenders like Kansas City or Buffalo, but more like a team that has issues that need to be resolved.
“Eleven-win season, a great accomplishment, not easy to do,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “Great opportunity, this is what we wanted. This was the first step, the first goal.”
But it’s the playoffs, where anything can happen.
“We’ve said this from Day 1 in training camp, we believe we have a team that’s good enough to win it all,” Reich added. “That has to start by getting in the playoffs and now that we’re here, that’s our belief.”
The Colts will be on the road playing a scary Buffalo Bills team on Saturday (1:05 p.m., CBS). The Tennessee Titans (11-5) beat the Houston Texans 41-38, winning the AFC South title for the first time since 2008. The Titans and Colts split their games this season, but the Titans won the tiebreaker because of a better division record (5-1; the Colts were 4-2).
Sunday’s victory wasn’t supposed to be this close, not against a Jacksonville team that had only one win, albeit against Indianapolis, and will pick No. 1 in the 2021 NFL draft.
It didn’t seem like it was going to be that tough when the Colts jumped on the Jaguars 20-0. But, again, Indianapolis doesn’t know how to make things easy.
The Colts didn’t completely fall apart the way they did when they blew a 17-point lead in their loss to Pittsburgh in Week 16.
“It was an interesting year,” Reich said. “Had a lot of great wins, had a couple of tough losses. You learn through those things. All the while trying to figure out what’s the formula for us to be the team that can go all the way.”
Taylor keeps on running and running: Taylor became just the fifth rookie in team history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season when he had a franchise-record 253 yards Sunday. He finished his first NFL season with 1,151 rushing yards.
The 253 yards surpassed Edgerrin James' previous franchise record of 219 yards set against the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 15, 2000. James had the two previous 200-yard rushing games in franchise history.
Things were going so well for Taylor that he nearly topped his career high in rushing in the first half. He didn’t reach it, but Taylor rushed for more yards -- 137 -- than the Jaguars had total yards -- 136 -- in the first 30 minutes of the game.
Taylor is heading into the playoffs averaging 123.5 yards (488, 5 games) in the final six games of the regular season.
“Playoff football is unique,” Reich said. “We feel like our running game is ascending at the right time for going into this time of year. That’s a really positive sign for us.”
A wise investment: Not that Colts general manager Chris Ballard needed any more validation, but his decision to give up a first-round pick to San Francisco for defensive lineman DeForest Buckner last spring worked out perfectly.
Buckner had two more sacks Sunday to bring his season total to a team-high 9.5.