NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
Welcome back, Donald Brown.
The fourth-year running back made his first game back from knee surgery a successful one Sunday in the Indianapolis Colts’ 19-13 overtime win over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Brown ran for 80 yards on 14 carries, 39 of those yards coming on the team’s game-winning drive.
His 19-yard run up the middle on the Colts’ second play from scrimmage in the extra session produced a first down at the Indianapolis 48-yard line. Three more runs totaled 19 additional yards and put the football at the Tennessee Titans 38-yard line.
After a 3-yard loss, rookie quarterback Andrew Luck fired a 20-yard completion to veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Two plays after that, rookie running back Vick Ballard vaulted into the end zone from 16 yards out on a rollout throwback screen pass from Luck.
While Ballard and Luck will get the credit for the game-winning play, it was Brown’s full-throttle running that gave the Colts a chance to win the game.
“It felt good and I am feeling good right now,” Brown said afterward. “That’s what we needed to do. When [your] number is called, [you] need to make the most of those opportunities. The offensive line did a great job and that will help open up the passing game.
“We are just trying to help this offense and help this team any way we can. It’s important because when you can run the ball, you control the game. And that’s a huge momentum swing. It demoralizes the defense.”
Indianapolis had a season-high 171 yards rushing as a team. Ballard, who started the game ahead of Brown, chipped in with 55 yards in 12 carries. Delone Carter added eight yards on two carries but scored the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
The Colts averaged five yards per rushing attempt in the win over Tennessee, a sizable improvement from their season average of 3.7 yards per carry.
“It was unbelievable [for Brown] to come back and show as much pop and explosiveness as he did so short after that injury. It was great,” Luck voiced. “I think [his running] provided a great lift, a great spell for Vick and Mewelde [Moore] and Delone. He’s a big part of our offense.”
Luck finished the day by completing 26 of 38 passes for 297 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was also sacked twice.
• Arians likes the running game — When interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was hired by coach Chuck Pagano, one thing the pair wanted to instill in the Indianapolis offense was a strong, gut-it-out-on-the-ground mentality.
The running game, though, had struggled through the first six games of the season. It had become a hit or miss proposition, although it was more miss than hit — until Sunday’s game with Tennessee.
“[The running game] does everything. It just takes the heart out of the defense when you can run it down their throats. Especially when you are running it in on the goal line and you don’t have to do anything else,” Arians said.
• Almost intercepted — As big a play as Luck’s game-winning touchdown toss to Ballard was, it came within a whisker of not happening at all.
Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley made a play on the ball just as the catch was being made. A step or two quicker on the play and Wimbley could have been sprinting 90 yards in the other direction.
“I turned around and threw it and saw a Titans uniform flash. I said, ‘Oh God, this may be the end of the game in the wrong way,’ “ Luck said. “I saw Vick catch it. I saw somebody — I don’t know who it was — just driving a guy in a block and what a wonderful individual effort by [Ballard] to get it in [the end zone].”
• The play — Arians admitted after the game Sunday that he had gotten the idea of running the rollout throwback screen after seeing a college team run it a few years ago.
“I don’t even know which college team I was watching. But I saw that play three years ago. We talked about it Tuesday [in a coaches’ meeting],” he said. “So I said I’m going to put this play in and see what it looks like. Every time we ran it in practice, it looked just like [it did in the game]. So we called it.”
• Injury list — Cornerback Vontae Davis left the game early in the first quarter with a sprained left knee. Rookie tight end Coby Fleener was sidelined in the fourth quarter with an apparent shoulder injury. Fleener returned briefly and then left again.
Arians said after the game that he won’t know the status of Davis and Fleener for this week’s game with Miami until today or Tuesday.
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis (knee), cornerback Darius Butler (shoulder) and defensive tackle Fili Moala (knee) were pregame inactives, along with wide receiver Nathan Palmer, defensive end Lawrence Guy, offensive tackle Tony Hills and nose tackle Antonio Dixon.