AFC South: 2013 Week 13 TEN at IND

Video: Titans-Colts review

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
10:00
AM ET

ESPN.com bloggers Mike Wells and Paul Kuharsky shared some final thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts win over the Tennessee Titans and the state of the AFC South.
Donald BrownAP Photo/AJ MastDonald Brown's touchdown late in the fourth quarter sealed the game for the Colts.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Change was necessary.

It wasn't an easy task to pull off because the cupboard had limited options. But the Indianapolis Colts had to do something because things simply weren't working.

You wouldn't have known that the Colts went into Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans with a two-game lead in the AFC South by the way they had play in the four games prior.

That's what prompted the moves to be made.

All is not fixed, but when the clock struck all zeroes at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts walked off the field 22-14 winners and on the brink of winning their first division title since 2010.

"That was a backyard street brawl man," Colts defensive lineman Cory Redding said. "You got called out in your neighborhood by the biggest kid and you have to fight. And that's what it was. Both of us are a really fighting for the division...We knew it was going to be a tough division game and definitely get the bad taste out of our mouths. We never want to have one loss turn into two."

The Colts (8-4) have been ravished with injuries, including to veteran Reggie Wayne, and their play at times has left some wondering how they've managed to win eight games this season.

Here they stand with a three-game lead in the division with only four to play. The Colts can wrap things up with a victory at Cincinnati or if the Titans lose at Denver next weekend.

"We're not exhaling," coach Chuck Pagano said. "The division is not sewn up. We're going to do everything within our power to keep trending in the right direction."

Out went cornerback Cassius Vaughn. Out went guard Mike McGlynn. And out went running back Trent Richardson, further proving that the trade with Cleveland earlier this season has been a bust.

Enter cornerback Darius Butler, guard Jeff Linkenbach and running back Donald Brown.

Vaughn responded to his demotion by getting two of Indianapolis' three interceptions. Brown was held to eight yards on eight attempts until he had six carries for 46 yards and a touchdown on the Colts' final offensive series.

"We're always trying to just make decisions based on what's best for the team and what gives us the best chance to win," Pagano said. "We made a decision to give a couple guys an opportunity and move forward."

But this is only one game.

The Colts know that, too. That's why they didn't strut around the locker room after the game like all was well again.

The flaws are still there and they'd be even more glaring if future Hall-of-Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri didn't make five field goals -- four coming from at least 45 yards -- and the defense didn't force four turnovers.

The Colts will have a difficult time winning a playoff game if they continue to play like this.

"We know we can't survive our mistakes forever," quarterback Andrew Luck said. "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. ... We still got a lot of mistakes to clean up."

Speaking of broken records, where have you heard this before? It's a miracle that Luck is able to continue to shake off all the hits he takes during the game.

Inserting Linkenbach into the starting lineup didn't improve an offensive line that needs to be upgraded in the offseason for the second straight year. Luck was sacked five times, including four in the second quarter.

The Colts did manage to score 12 points in the first half, but they haven't scored a touchdown in the first 30 minutes of a game since tight end Coby Fleener caught an 8-yard pass from Luck in the second quarter against Denver on Oct. 20 and Indianapolis was still considered a threat in the AFC.

"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. Great win, but we still got obviously a long way to go and a lot of work to do, but really proud of the guys, proud of the coaches, proud of the players."

And proud to be closing in on a division title.

Moise Fokou penalty baffles Titans

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
6:07
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- T.Y. Hilton's 20-yard catch was finished and the first half clock was expiring.

Moise Fokou stopped it with a shove in the back of Stanley Havili. The penalty against the Tennessee Titans linebacker gave the Indianapolis Colts 15 yards and one play with a second remaining. Adam Vinatieri promptly hit a 37-yard field goal -- one of five in the game.

A free 3 points for the Colts en route to a 22-14 win over the Titans. That kick boosted the Colts lead from 9-7 to 12-7.

The play symbolized the Titans' season. They are undisciplined at key moments and allow opponents to take control and benefit.

"We can't do that, we just cannot do that," safety Bernard Pollard said. "We are walking into the locker room, they have three field goals. That gave them some life. You just can't do that…

"I had some choice words, those were bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep. We can't make those mistakes. It's hard to win in this game. It'd hard to keep powerful teams with really good players down. It's hard to keep points off the board. I think it was a 30 yards swing. (Actually 35.) It's ridiculous."

Fokou said, "no comment" to direct questions about the penalty, which is quite an impressive way to be accountable for a big mistake.

After more questions that were more about a play like that and less specifically about his, he relented a bit.

"It's frustrating," he said. "It's never a good thing to give up easy points, you can't do that, you can't win doing that."

Coach Mike Munchak leaned heavily on not having seen it.

"Obviously you can't do something like that," he said. "I don't think a lot goes through your mind when it happens. I think it's instinct or quick reaction, I don't know. I don't know why something like that would happen, it shouldn't happen."

Instinct?

That's what the Titans need, guys with instincts that tell them to hand away 15 yards and field goal opportunities.

Fans should be starting to count how many times Munchak says "I don't know" as well as another favorite, "for whatever reason."

More to come on him and the state of his team that scares no one else in the AFC South.

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
4:17
PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 22-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

What it means: It was far from a thing of beauty -- it was even ugly at times -- but the Colts control their own fate in the AFC South. The victory gives them a three-game lead over the Titans with four games left in the season. The ageless wonder Adam Vinatieri kicked five field goals and the Colts found their ground game on their final offensive series to seal the game. Running back Donald Brown had six carries for 46 yards on the drive that gave them an eight-point lead. He capped it off with a touchdown run. Brown, who replaced Trent Richardson in the starting lineup, had eight carries for 8 yards prior to the final drive.

No protection: The Colts shook up their offensive line some by moving right guard Mike McGlynn to the bench and replacing him with Jeff Linkenbach. That didn’t stop the Titans from being able to get after Andrew Luck. The Titans sacked Luck five times, including four times in the second quarter alone.

Getting defensive: The Colts also changed things up some in the secondary. Cassius Vaughn had been starting for the injured Greg Toler at cornerback, but he was replaced by Darius Butler. The demotion woke Vaughn up, as he intercepted Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick twice. Linebacker Robert Mathis added to his league lead in sacks -- 15.5 -- when he got a strip-sack of Fitzpatrick in the second half. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman iced the game when he picked off Fitzpatrick's pass in Colts territory with 24 seconds left.

Still no offense in the first half: The good news for the Colts is that they went into the half with a 12-7 lead. The bad news is that they still can’t score any touchdowns in the first half. The Colts have had 31 possessions and 153 plays in the first half of their past five games. They haven’t scored a touchdown in any of those halves.

What’s next: The Colts can clinch the AFC South if they can go on the road and beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 8.

Rapid Reaction: Tennessee Titans

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
4:13
PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Tennessee Titans' 22-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts a Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Titans blew a chance to get back to leading the pack for the sixth seed in the AFC and couldn’t close to within a game of the Colts in the AFC South. They are now 5-7. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. Kicker Adam Vinatieri made up for the Colts' inability to find the end zone until the end, when they drove 92 yards in 11 plays over 6:12, capped by a 4-yard Donald Brown touchdown that provided the final margin.

Stock watch: Tight end Taylor Thompson was called on for a major role with Craig Stevens inactive because of a concussion and Delanie Walker lost in the first half to a concussion of his own. Thompson looked thoroughly overmatched, booting a couple of catchable balls and hardly providing a reliable option for Fitzpatrick.

Four in a row: The Titans have played reasonably well in four games against the Colts since Chuck Pagano took over as coach and Andrew Luck took over as quarterback. But Tennessee is 0-4 in those games as the Colts have found a way every time in the second half.

Giant goat: Well away from the tackle at the very end of the first half, linebacker Moise Fokou shoved fullback Stanley Havili in the back and drew a personal foul penalty. The 15 yards put the Colts in range for a 37-yard Vinatieri field goal.

What’s next: The Titans travel to Denver for a matchup with Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

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