News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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December 1, 2013

An Ugly ‘W’ for Indy

Vinatieri’s 5 FGs, Brown’s TD, defense’s big plays save struggling Colts from themselves

INDIANAPOLIS — Yes, it was an ugly game to watch.

Between the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts, there were five total turnovers, six sacks and 13 total penalties between on Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Tennessee controlled the game most of the day, rolling up 347 yards and getting 24 first downs. The Colts, meanwhile, managed to put together 264 yards of offense and totaled 18 first downs — when they weren’t getting in their own way with sloppy play and dropped passes.

But in the end, thanks to five Adam Vinatieri field goals and Donald Brown’s 4-yard touchdown run with 1:56 remaining in the game, Indianapolis did what it had to do in securing a 22-14 National Football League win over the Titans.

With the victory, the Colts improved to 8-4 on the season and remain undefeated in the division with a 4-0 mark. Tennessee, meanwhile, dropped to 5-7 overall and 0-4 in the division. Indianapolis needs a win or a Titans loss (or tie) over the final four games of the season to clinch the AFC South crown.

Vinatieri, who tied a career best with five field goals, and Brown, who earned the start at running back over a struggling Trent Richardson, were the offensive headliners. But it was an opportunistic Colts defense that intercepted Tennessee quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick three times and forced a Fitzpatrick fumble.

Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman’s pick of a Fitzpatrick pass in the game’s final seconds sealed the win for Indianapolis after the Titans mounted one last-ditch drive, which ended at the Colts’ 33-yard line with 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

“Great team win,” Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano said afterward. “It was a great football team that came in here. Two teams fighting for the same thing. But I’m really proud of our players, I’m proud of our coaches. This group of men found a way to get the job done coming off a disappointing loss [to Arizona last week].

“Again, they’re a resilient bunch … found a way to get the thing done. Had our struggles early on offense. Couldn’t get anything generated. Really proud of the defense playing the way they did. They were asked time and time again to go out there and make stops and got off the field against a team that came in doing a really good job on third down. The turnovers were huge.”

The Indianapolis offense had a tough time much of the game. Penalties, sacks and an inability to catch the ball on a consistent basis hindered the Colts ability to punch the ball into the end zone.

The Titans’ offense seemingly had no trouble moving the ball up and down the field over the course of the afternoon. But every time it appeared as if Tennessee was ready to go on a roll, the Colts defense would force a punt or come up with a big play.

Vinatieri’s field goals — from 47, 48, 45, 37 and 49 yards — kept Indianapolis in the game. Every time Tennessee would forge a lead — 7-6 with 13:13 left in the second quarter and 14-12 at the 7:29 mark of the third quarter — the Colts would find a way to respond.

“[We] moved the ball down [but] we got to find a way to score touchdowns. We know going down the stretch here that you’ve got to score touchdowns and try to put people away,” Pagano said.

“You let people hang around, you’re just asking for trouble. … We still obviously [have] a long way to go and a lot of work to do.”

Quarterback Andrew Luck completed 17 of 32 passes for 200 yards for the Colts. He was also sacked five times and had one interception. Luck also ran five times for 42 yards, including a 24-yard bootleg keeper on his team’s lone touchdown drive.

Brown, who has made a career playing against Tennessee, continued to be a thorn in the Titans’ side on Sunday. He rushed for a team-high 54 yards on 14 carries. On the Colts’ final scoring drive, Brown ran for 46 yards on six carries and scored the game-clincher.

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, connected on 21 of 37 passes for 201 yards and one touchdown, a 1-yard flip to running back Chris Johnson on fourth-and-goal. The score gave Tennessee its final lead of the game. His 1-yard plunge in the second quarter had put the Titans on top 7-6.

Johnson had a game-high 69 yards rushing in 18 carries. He also caught six passes for 32 yards. Wide receivers Kendall Wright (six catches for 77 yards) and Nate Washington (five receptions for 81 yards) were Fitzpatrick’s primary targets downfield.

Cornerback Cassius Vaughn recorded two interceptions for Indianapolis while Freeman, who had a team-high nine total tackles, added his theft to close the door on the Titans. Outside linebacker Robert Mathis had a sack and a forced fumble, giving him a career-best 15.5 sacks this season. Freeman recovered the fumble that set up one of Vinatieri’s field goals.

“We’ll take a couple of hours to enjoy this. But everybody is coming in [Monday]. We’re going to watch the tape, we’re going to get treatment, get [in the weight room],” Pagano said. “We’re going to go to work on the next opponent (Cincinnati). We’re not exhaling. We’re going to do everything within our power to keep trending in the right direction.”

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