Colts Beat Tennessee, 27-17, to Tie NFL Record for Consecutive Regular-Season Victories
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts made NFL history Sunday.
And not only did they do it against one of the NFL's hottest teams, for a change they stopped no hearts to do it.
With Joseph Addai rushing for two first-half touchdowns, and with a defense that played better the closer it was to its end own zone, the Colts took a 14-point halftime lead and never let the Tennessee Titans cut the lead below 10 points in a 27-17 victory on Sunday afternoon in front of 66,321 at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
With the victory, the Colts won their 21st consecutive regular-season game, tying the NFL record held by the 2006-08 New England Patriots.
Afterwards, the Colts approached the record as they had approached the streak.
Yes, the consecutive victories are nice, they said.
But they're hardly the ultimate goal.
"We certainly do not take it for granted," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said after completing 24 of 37 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions for a 95.6 passer rating.
"It's obviously fun to win. It does build momentum, but we have taken it one week it at a time. We enjoy it when we're allowed to enjoy it, but we have to work next week for the next opponent."
The Colts (12-0), who remained one of two unbeaten teams in the NFL after New Orleans beat Washington, 33-30, in overtime, also maintained their three-game lead in the AFC over Cincinnati (9-3), a 23-13 winner over Detroit Sunday. The AFC's other three-loss team, San Diego, played Cleveland late Sunday afternoon.
The Colts clinched a sixth AFC South title in seven years last week.
"I think we are building on what we've already had here previously, in terms of how we do things and the way we do them," Colts first-year head coach Jim Caldwell said. "We have a great organization from top to bottom and great players and an outstanding staff as well.
"I would attribute the success we have had to them."
The Colts on Sunday took first-half leads of 7-0 and 21-3, marking the first time since a 42-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams on October 25 the Colts had not trailed in a game. Indianapolis set an NFL record in November by rallying to win five consecutive games after trailing in the fourth quarter.
On Sunday, Tennessee never got closer than 10 after Addai scored his second touchdown of the game, a 1-yard run with 11:42 remaining in the second quarter.
"That's something we did talk about: 'Hey, these comebacks are nice, but we don't have to [rely on them]," Manning said. "I've always felt a comeback win meant you screwed up in the first three quarters to put yourself in that position."
The Colts' defense, which allowed 375 yards, three times held the Titans without touchdowns on key red-zone opunities, holding Tennessee to a field goal after a 1st-and-goal from the 2 in the first half and forcing Tennessee to give up possession on downs after a 1st-and-goal from the 1 late in the third quarter.
"It was kind of a classic effort, I think," Caldwell said. "It's kind of how games go each week. It may look like the margin is fairly wide, but usually, it narrows and we have to battle all the way through to get this one done.
"I would say this is kind of a typical game this week."
The Colts also forced an incomplete pass by Titans quarterback Vince Young on 4th-and-5 from the Colts 14 with 10:37 remaining.
The Colts forced two Tennessee turnovers, and held Titans running back Chris Johnson to a 4.2-yards-per carry average, 2.2 yards below his season average. Johnson, who had rushed for 800 yards in five November games, rushed for 113 on 27 carries Sunday.
His longest run was 11 yards.
"He's going to get his yards," Caldwell said. "There's no question about that. He's a talented guy. The good thing about it, we didn't let him loose. He didn't get one of those 85-yard runs against us, which he is certainly capable of.
"I think our guys kind of kept him running parallel at the line of scrimmage rather than North and South. We're certainly pleased with the effort."
Addai, who rushed for 79 yards on 21 carries, gave the Colts an early lead with an eight-yard run and also caught three passes for 17 yards. Two of his receptions gave the Colts key first downs, and Addai said afterward while the streak – and being unbeaten is nice, "it doesn't mean a thing if you don't win the big game."
"I think every kid's dream is to play in the Super Bowl," Addai said. "That's the big thing, to keep on winning games, not to try to go undefeated."
The Colts took an early lead with an efficient offense, and a timely defense that improved throughout the first half.
The Colts, with Manning throwing to wide receiver Pierre Garcon for gains of 27 and 36 yards, took a quick 7-0 lead with 13:02 remaining in the opening period, with Addai's 8-yard run capping a five-play, 75-yard drive. The Titans drove 69 yards on the ensuing drive but after reaching the Colts 2, settled for a 20-yard field goal by Rob Bironas.
Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney sacked Young to stop the ensuing possession at the Titans 45, after which Indianapolis pushed the lead 11 with a 1-yard touchdown run by Addai. The Colts drove 77 yards on the 11-play possession.
Indianapolis forced turnovers on the next two Titans droves, with Eric Foster recovering a fumble by Titans running back Ahmard Hall and cornerback Jacob Lacey intercepting Young.
Foster's recovery led to a quick punt, but after Lacey intercepted Young near the Titans sideline at the Titans 43, Manning drove the Colts 42 yards on a drive that ended with Manning throwing four yards to rookie wide receiver Austin Collie to make it 21-3, Colts.
The Titans drove 66 yards on eight players on their ensuing possession, cutting the Colts' lead to 14 when Young passed six yards to wide receiver Kenny Britt with :20 remaining in the quarter.
The Colts drove 38 yards in the final 18 seconds, with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Titans defensive tackle Tony Brown helping set up a 43-yard field goal by Matt Stover on the final play of the half. Garcon, who had six receptions for 136 yards – including five for 126 in the first half – had an 18-yard reception on the drive's first play.
"You can argue that might have changed the outcome of the game," Manning said. "With 18 seconds left and two timeouts – thanks to Coach Caldwell – he put some trust in us to go down there and try to get a field goal. Pierre made a nice play and a Stover made a big kick."
The Colts maintained their lead throughout the third quarter, and late in the period, had their second goal-line stand, this time holding the Titans out of the end zone after Tennessee faced 1st-and-goal on the Colts 1. Young threw a fade route to Britt on 4th-and-goal from the 2, but with Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers defending, the pass was incomplete.
"We got off to a pretty good first half and played well," Caldwell said. "We did some things that we really set out to do. We started out a little faster than we had in recent weeks. But our second half, we certainly didn't do as well as we'd like.
"We had some very important defensive stops, I think, along the way, were key and important. There enough good things to make us feel pretty good about ourselves and certainly enough things to humble us as well. We know we have a lot of work to do before next week."