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DEFENSE PUSHES COLTS TO VICTORY

Posted Dec 9, 2012

The Colts took command of Sunday's game on the strength of sterling second-half defense and some timely running by Vick Ballard. Indy held the visiting Tennessee Titans to just a field goal after halftime and captured a 27-23 victory. The triumph was the Colts' third straight and seventh in the last eight games, lifting them to 9-4.

 

INDIANAPOLIS – In the wake of yet another down-to-the-wire victory and stirring performance, the words of Interim Coach Bruce Arians made the Colts' extraordinary accomplishments almost sound routine.

 

“It's the same thing each week.  We find ways to win,” Arians said after the Colts found a way to overcome the Tennessee Titans, 27-23.

 

The Indianapolis team did it Sunday by outscoring the visitors 20-3 after halftime.  The Colts did it with a defense that intercepted two second-half passes, returning one for a touchdown. And they did it with Vick Ballard's 94 rushing yards, mostly from a spread offense, that continually kept drives alive.

 

“I think our guys have a lot of poise at halftime,” Arians said.  “Our coaches are doing a great job of making adjustments and putting our guys in a position to win.”

 

After two quarters, the Colts trailed 20-7 and were struggling to get untracked.  They went in at halftime and talked about regrouping and starting the third quarter with a new resolve.  

 

Neither Arians nor the team was happy with the first-half performance, but the atmosphere stayed positive.

 

“There's no hollering and screaming and stuff,” Arians said.  “That's for movies.

 

“We talk about what we need to do, what plays we're going to run, just address what went wrong and what we need to correct it.”

 

And it worked nicely.  After the second half's opening kickoff, quarterback Andrew Luck led the Colts on a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown march.

 

The defense quickly joined the act, too.  Tennessee's first drive was three plays and a punt.

 

And after Colts punter Pat McAfee pinned the Titans at their own one-yard line a bit later, cornerback Cassius Vaughn intercepted a Jake Locker pass and returned it three yards for a touchdown that sent the Colts ahead, 21-20.

 

Tennessee had the ball three more times in the second half.  A 16-play march generated only a field goal.  Another Titans possession ended in an interception by Indy's Darius Butler.  On another possession, Tennessee punted after five plays.

 

“In crunch time, our defense has been outstanding throughout the season,” Arians said.

 

Two field goals by Adam Vinatieri in the final 6:23 provided the Colts with a four-point lead.  And when Indy's offense got the ball back with 2:42 left, it knew what it had to do.

 

Just before the two-minute warning -- with Tennessee out of timeouts -- Luck threw over the middle to Dwayne Allen for an 11-yard gain and a first down.  Luck then ran out the clock after the warning by kneeling down three straight times.

 

“Dwayne did a great job,” Luck said.  “He's just a big, strong, athletic target.  He made a great catch with the linebacker on his body up high and essentially sealed the game.”

 

The victory put the Colts at 9-4. The team is now 8-1 in one-possession games.

 

Luck finished with 16-of-34 passing for 196 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Reggie Wayne caught six passes for 64 yards and a TD.

 

Tennessee's Locker completed 22-of-35 passes for 262 yards with one score and two interceptions. Titans running back Chris Johnson was held to 44 rushing yards on 19 carries. Tennessee is 4-9.

 

 

SCORING RECAP

           

FIRST QUARTER (10:10 remaining)

Titans quarterback Jake Locker hurt the Colts early and often in the drive. He hit 6-of-6 passes for 53 yards, including the 18-yard touchdown throw to Jared Cook. Locker also did some major damage with a 32-yard scramble on the game's fourth play. Rob Bironas hit the extra point. Titans 7, Colts 0.

 

FIRST QUARTER (1:01 remaining)

Three nifty passes for 50 yards by quarterback Andrew Luck helped to push the Colts into a tie. The biggest completion went for 36 yards to T.Y. Hilton on the drive's second play. Five plays later, Luck spotted a wide-open Reggie Wayne over the middle and connected for a four-yard touchdown. Adam Vinatieri made the extra point. Titans 7, Colts 7.

 

SECOND QUARTER (12:27 remaining)

Locker kept the heat on. His 46-yard completion to Kenny Britt  set up the visitors with a first down at the Colts' 25-yard line. Tennessee's drive stalled, and Bironas booted a 40-yard field goal. Titans 10, Colts 7.

 

SECOND QUARTER (4:40 remaining)

A magnificent defensive play by Tennessee linebacker Will Witherspoon extended the Titans' lead. When Tennessee defensive end Derrick Morgan applied a shoe-lace tackle to Luck, the Indy quarterback attempted to unload the football as he was falling forward. Witherspoon, only a few yards away, plucked the throw from the air and headed the other way. He ran 40 yards for the touchdown. Bironas kicked the extra point. Titans 17, Colts 7.

 

SECOND QUARTER (37 seconds remaining)

Locker's strong first half continued as he completed 5-of-7 passes for 75 yards on another scoring march. The big play, a 46-yard completion to Britt, put the Titans in field goal position. Bironas hit it from 31 yards. Titans 20, Colts 7.

 

THIRD QUARTER (8:36 remaining)

Luck and the Colts took the second half's opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in 14 plays. Luck twice completed third-down passes to Reggie Wayne for 12 and 20 yards. Vick Ballard's runs for 13 and 11 yards highlighted the drive, too. Delone Carter burst in from the 1-yard line on third down for the TD. Vinatieri hit the extra point. Titans 20, Colts 14.

 

THIRD QUARTER (5:36 remaining)

Two marvelous plays sent the Colts ahead. First, punter Pat McAfee pinned the Titans at their own 1-yard line with a 52-yard punt. Then, on Tennessee's first play from scrimmage, Locker aimed a pass for Nate Washington. It never got to him. The Colts' Cassius Vaughn jumped in front of Washington, intercepted and rolled into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown return. Vinatieri hit the extra point. Colts 21, Titans 20.

 

FOURTH QUARTER (10:28 remaining)

Bironas connected on a 25-yard field goal to put the Titans back in the lead. Two third-down penalties cost the Colts dearly. The first one, a defensive holding call against Moise Fokou, wiped out a sack of Locker. The second penalty, a pass interference call against Antoine Bethea, resulted in a Titans first down after Locker failed to connect on a pass. Locker completed passes to Craig Stevens for 19 yards and Washington for 15 yards on the drive's big plays for Tennessee.  Titans 23, Colts 21.

 

FOURTH QUARTER (6:23 remaining)

The Colts refused to wilt and regained the lead on a 53-yard field goal by Vinatieri. Luck completed an 18-yarder to Donnie Avery for the big play. Ballard ran for 14 yards for another nice gain. Colts 24, Titans 23.

 

FOURTH QUARTER (3:48 remaining)

Vinatieri's 40-yard field goal expanded the Colts' lead to four. It was set up by an interception by Darius Butler, giving Indy possession at the Tennessee 28.  Colts 27, Titans 23.

 

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