The Titans had everything needed for an upset victory to end the Colts’ perfect season (more about that perfection thing later).
The historically troublesome opponent rode their own winning streak into Lucas Oil Stadium and was still smarting from the profound beating the Colts administered to them on national television earlier in the season.
Despite having opportunities galore to get it done, the Tennessee Titans came up short and Indianapolis prevailed 27-17 in a game that was much closer than the final score indicates.
The Colts wasted no time getting their offensive groove on as Peyton Manning’s first pass intended for Austin Collie was tipped and ended up in the hands of Pierre Garcon who rambled 27 yards with it before being brought down. Three plays later, Garcon would haul in another Manning bullet for 28 yards to set up Joseph Addai’s eight-yard touchdown scamper. In just 1:58 Indianapolis was quickly up 7-0 on their rivals from Nashville.
Tennessee would counter with a large dosage of Chris Johnson running the football, and coupled with Vince Young’s short, quick release passing, traveled 71 yards in 13 plays with the drive yielding a field goal at the 6:38 mark of the first quarter.
The second quarter would prove to be the most entertaining one in the game from an offensive perspective as the Colts would put 17 more points on the board courtesy of Addai’s second scoring run of the game and a four yard touchdown strike from Manning to ever improving rookie, Collie.
Tennessee would come back to score just before the half on a six yard toss from Young to rookie Kenny Britt and with just 20 seconds left in the half the Titans had narrowed the lead to 21-10. After a short kickoff by Rob Bironas, Manning found Garcon for a quick 18 yards, which was good enough to set up kicker Matt Stover for an improbable 43 yard field goal, and the Colts ran off the field at halftime ahead 24-10.
The third period would prove to be rather vanilla to say the least, as both teams sputtered offensively and could muster no points as a result. The Colts defense shined when it counted at the 1:05 mark of the quarter, holding the Titans on a crucial fourth and two at the goal line, and deflating the Titans morale in the process, while taking over possession on downs.
While the Indianapolis offense would manage just a field goal in the final stanza, the drive was masterful in terms of taking a precious 7:23 off the clock, forcing Tennessee to implement a no huddle offensive approach which was obviously an uncomfortable formation for the visiting Titans.
The Indianapolis defensive unit would once again stop Tennessee on fourth down deep in Colts territory and effectively end the hopes of a comeback. While they would allow a meaningless final score just before the end of the game, the defense was stout when it counted, and pressured Young throughout the game, forcing him out of the pocket quicker than he would have preferred. “We just didn’t finish in the red zone” Young said afterwards. “Against a team like the Colts, you have to score touchdowns.”
Notes: Peyton Manning was not sacked for the sixth time this season, which includes both games against Tennessee.
The Titans Chris Johnson rushed for 113 yards on the day but did not find the end zone.
With their 21st consecutive regular season win, the Colts tied the New England Patriots for the all time record.
While the defense played well overall, the Colts secondary was beaten deep on several occasions. While Tennessee was unable to capitalize on the opportunities, it is safe to say that other playoff bound teams in the AFC will pick it up on film.
Titans Coach Jeff Fisher is one of the brightest minds in the game and needs no advice from me, but he should have taken field goal attempts when deep in Colts territory instead of coming up empty handed. Indeed out of character for simply one of the finest coaches in the NFL today.
Many fans have indicated to me via email that the Colts will go undefeated and represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in Miami this year. I am still not buying it, and think their pass defense will be the death of them. Look for the Colts to drop their first game of the year at Jacksonville on Dec. 17.
Danny Bridges, who does not look at his caller ID for hostile Colts fans before he answers, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.