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December 2, 2013

Colts survive challenge from Tennessee

Vinatieri boots 5 field goals in Indy's victory

INDIANAPOLIS — For all intents and purposes, the Indianapolis Colts won their first division championship in three years Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

But when second-year quarterback Andrew Luck walked into the postgame interview room just moments after a 22-14 escape against the Tennessee Titans, he looked much more like a survivor than a conquering hero.

“We know we can’t survive our mistakes forever,” Luck said, repeating a line he’s used often in recent weeks. “I know it sounds a bit like a broken record, but sometimes you just got to gut a win out — no matter how ugly it is. I’ll never complain about a win. I don’t think you’ll hear anybody in that locker room complain about a win, especially against a good division opponent like Tennessee.”

At 8-4, Indianapolis now has a three-game lead over the Titans (5-7) in the AFC South race with four regular-season games remaining. The Colts can clinch the division crown with a win next week at Cincinnati or a Tennessee loss at Denver.

In fact, any Indianapolis win or Titans loss in the next four weeks will send the division title — and automatic playoff berth — back to the Circle City.

That was the primary take away from Sunday’s unpretty slugfest. But the Colts insist there won’t be any letdowns even with a major finish line so close.

“We’re not exhaling,” head coach Chuck Pagano said. “The division is not sewn up. We still got a lot of work to do as a football team in all three phases. So we’re going to fight human nature.”

Tennessee proved there still are plenty of holes for Indianapolis to fill.

The Colts had just 26 rushing yards on 16 carries when they took possession for the decisive drive with 8:08 remaining in the fourth quarter. Clinging to a slim 15-14 lead, by virtue of five Adam Vinatieri field goals, Indianapolis promptly marched 92 yards on 11 plays and took all but 1:56 off the clock.

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