Same sum, different math.
The Indianapolis Colts’ improbable run continued Sunday with a 27-23 victory against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The game hewed close to a familiar script on many themes. Indianapolis improved to 8-1 in games decided by one score or less, and it was the seventh straight home game to come down to the final drive.
But the Colts (9-4) tweaked the ending a bit this time around. It was the defense making the big, game-changing plays and the offense holding on to the lead late.
“It was a great team win again, and like I said earlier, there won’t be any blowouts with this team,” Indianapolis interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. “This team is too young. We just try to figure out a way to win every week, and so far we’ve been able to do that.”
The latest victory brings the Colts to the brink of the postseason. Losses by the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) and Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) on Sunday gave Indianapolis a two-game lead for the AFC’s fifth playoff spot with three regular-season games to play.
The formula for the Colts clinching a playoff spot remains convoluted, taking into account possibilities such as the 6-7 New York Jets winning out and the Bengals and Steelers playing to a tie in their Dec. 23 meeting.
Indianapolis also will remain alive in the race for the AFC South title if the 11-1 Houston Texans lose tonight against the 9-3 New England Patriots.
With so much uncertainty remaining in the picture, it’s best the Colts remain focused on tending to their own business.
Against Tennessee (4-9) that meant overcoming a rugged first half that left Indianapolis with a 20-7 deficit.
Andrew Luck was responsible for part of that margin, throwing his third interception that was returned for a touchdown late in the second quarter with the Colts trailing 10-7.
Replays appeared to show at least one of Luck’s knees — if not both — was down before he released the football. But referee Peter Morelli didn’t see enough on video to overturn the call.
“I saw it on the [video board],” Luck said. “I was hoping that they would call me down. But I probably deserved a pick-six for trying to throw a football in that position going down, right at a defender. So learn from it, and don’t do it again, hopefully.”
The Titans also scored on an 18-yard pass from Jake Locker to Jared Cook on the game’s opening drive and a pair of Rob Bironas field goals in the second quarter.
Locker finished with 262 yards, but he gained just 49 in the second half and was intercepted twice.
“We were ahead of the chains in the first half and we weren’t in the second, and that can make a difference,” Locker said.
Meanwhile, the Colts’ offense sprung to life.
After managing just a 4-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne in the first half, Luck directed an 80-yard drive to start the third quarter that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Delone Carter and cut the deficit to six.
Cornerback Cassius Vaughn erased it entirely exactly three minutes later. On the first play after Pat McAfee pinned the Titans at their own 1-yard line with a 52-yard punt, Vaughn intercepted Locker’s pass and returned it 3 yards to the end zone for a go-ahead score.
Vaughn said Locker had been going to his side on intermediate routes throughout the first half. He gambled the quarterback would try the same thing again and won.
“It was one of them moments where we knew we had to try to make a play,” he said. “We made a play, and that turned the game around for us.”
After the teams traded field goals, Darius Butler grabbed the second interception against Locker. His came at the Titans’ 28-yard line and set up a 40-yard Vinatieri field goal to end the scoring.
Tennessee had one final chance to win. The Titans picked up a first down at their own 30 but believed they had a third-and-short and called a quarterback sneak. Locker was stopped for no gain on the play and then threw a pair of incompletions to force a punt.
Indianapolis took over at its own 10-yard line. Vick Ballard picked up a first down with a 13-yard run, and Luck sealed the game with an 11-yard pass to tight end Dwayne Allen on second-and-10 from the 24.
Luck finished just 16-of-34 for 196 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. But he surpassed Peyton Manning’s franchise record for rookie passing yards, and he’s now just 259 yards shy of Cam Newton’s NFL record.
As usual, however, the only record Luck was focused on was 9-4.
“I think it’s the best team game in the world, I really do,” he said. “You have to rely on so many guys and so many different phases of the game. It’s fun when you can get team victories.”
Same sum, different math.
Sports briefs: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014
DePaul's Penny honored by Big East CHICAGO – DePaul senior forward Jasmine Penny was named to the Big East Conference Women’s Basketball Weekly Honor Roll it was announced on Monday by the league office. The senior, who was named the conference’s Pl
- Colts ink veteran receiver Branch for added depth The Indianapolis Colts made some news off the field Monday with the announcement that former New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch has been signed to the active roster. Branch, who played collegiately at Louisville, currently lives in Carme
- The next challenge FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- A defense that allowed 44 points in a playoff game might boost the confidence of its next opponent. Such generosity rarely leads to wins. But the New England Patriots aren't counting on the Indianapolis Colts being that vuln
- Strange season yields good results I have to say that this year has been quite unique during deer season. The tremendous swings in weather have led to a totally different season than I think most of my fellow deer hunters and I were expecting. From warm mild days to thunderstorms and
Caston handles South Newton
Facing a South Newton squad that had given up 52 points per game coming into Friday, coach Chris Ulerick made the decision to go back to the basics offensively, placing his senior quarterback under center and committing to the smash-mouth running style of the basic wing-T. Coupled with a few personnel changes, the move worked as the Comets pulled away from the Rebels for a 34-20 victory.
Winamac rocks North Judson
Class A No. 3-ranked Winamac stayed undefeated at 7-0 with a 30-13 win over North Judson (2-5) on Friday night.
Kokomo's D turns back Logan
Kokomo’s football team rode an explosive offensive attack to North Central Conference championships in 2007-11. The Wildkats showed a solid attack in posting a runner-up finish last year.
The Wildkats lack the same type of punch this year — but they have a defense willing to shoulder a heavier workload.
Cass hammers Taylor
The Lewis Cass football team looks like it’s starting to hit its stride at exactly the right time.
The Kings moved above .500 for the first time since Week 1 in Friday’s 48-0 shutout at Taylor, improving to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in Mid-Indiana Conference play.
Cass has won three straight games for the first time this season, setting up a juicy homecoming game when Maconaquah visits next week. The Braves have won four straight and hold a 5-2 overall record and 4-1 MIC mark after defeating Peru 28-19 Friday.
Pioneer rolls past North White
Pioneer’s football team played host to Midwest Conference foe North White Friday night at “The Pit.” Both teams entered the game with 4-2 records and most in attendance were expecting a fairly decent game — but the Vikings defense had no answer for Pioneer’s high-powered offense as the Panthers rolled to a 64-36 win over the Vikings.
- Reds face offseason of questions after late slide CINCINNATI (AP) -- The Reds kept their lineup virtually intact in the offseason, convinced it was ready for a push deep into the playoffs. They didn't add anything at midseason, thinking they were still fine. They paid for those decisions in another
- More Sports Headlines
- Sports briefs: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014