INDIANAPOLIS – A decade has passed since the Colts' Super Bowl victory, but the dominance over the Tennessee Titans remains.
With the 2006 Super Bowl XLI team in attendance Sunday afternoon, the present-day Colts played championship football early before holding on for a vital divisional victory.
Chuck Pagano did not shy away from letting his team know the importance of Sunday's 24-17 victory over the Titans.
"This was a huge, huge, huge game," Pagano said in the post-game locker room.
Another one-possession game for the Colts looked to be far away from this script after 20 minutes of action on Sunday.
The Colts jumped out to a 21-0 lead, the biggest margin they've had all season, after scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions for the first time since Dec. 17, 2009 (at Jacksonville).
"I loved the way that we started the ball game," Pagano said after his team put together back-to-back wins for the first time all season.
"We came out and put 21 quick points on the board and the defense was outstanding."
With DeMarco Murray bottled up early (the NFL's second-leading rusher had six carries for 10 yards in Sunday's first half), the Indy defense was silencing one of the league's most explosive offenses.
Things began to swing though late in the first half.
A third-down drop by Dwayne Allen led to an Adam Vinatieri field goal try. Mr. Automatic showed he was human, by missing from 42 yards out---his first failed attempt since September 2015.
The Titans scored late in the half, cutting the lead to 21-7 at halftime.
Game pressure piled up onto the home sideline in the second half with the Colts finding themselves in a big lull.
Twice the Titans started drives inside their own 10-yard line, and still produced 10 points out of the two series.
Leading just 21-17 with 12 minutes remaining, the Colts were sputtering.
A trio of Colts' punts to start the second half finally ceased with Andrew Luck finding T.Y. Hilton for 50 yards.
That gave Vinatieri a chance to start a new streak. The future Hall of Famer did with a 49-yarder, extending the lead back to seven points.
From there, both units did what they had to do to finish.
The defense got a 4th-and-1 stop from Clayton Geathers late, only adding to the largely impressive afternoon for that side of the ball.
- Murray averaged just 3.3 yards per carry (his season average was 4.9) and had a long run of eight yards (by far a season low).
- The Titans came into Sunday averaging 33.7 points per game over their last six---best in the NFL. The Colts held them to 17.
- Lastly, the Colts had five sacks (a season-high) of Marcus Mariota. Coming into Sunday, Mariota had been sacked just 13 times all year.
"When you win first and second down that's when they get off track a bit," D'Qwell Jackson said of the game plan against the Titans.
"If you look at their stats leading up to this game, they had a lot (third-and-shorts). That meant to me that they win a lot of first downs, because they were running the ball successfully. I thought we did a good job controlling the run, forcing them into third-and-longs, something they hadn't been used to all year, and we were able to generate some sacks today."
After the big fourth-down stop from Geathers, one final third-down conversion from Luck to T.Y. Hilton gave the Colts their 16th win in the last 17 meetings over the Titans.
The post-game locker room for the Colts had a few visitors on Sunday.
Kelvin Hayden, Dominic Rhodes and Reggie Wayne were hooting and hollering around like it was '06 all over again.
The 2016 Colts were happy they could add to the special day.
That happiness won't be the normal 24 hours it usually is after a win.
In about 96 hours, the Colts (5-5) will be back inside of Lucas Oil Stadium with the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) in town for a Thanksgiving night tilt.
"Winning is nice and I think it helps you on this quick turnaround mentally," Luck said after the Colts stayed within striking distance of the AFC South lead.
"We know it's going to be tough Thursday. We know it's going to be a lot of fun. We play on Thanksgiving. That's cool, right? It's every little boy's dream to play a real game on Thanksgiving. A quick turnaround (though) and we know we have our hands full."
The 2006 Super Bowl team reunited at the week 11 game against the Tennessee Titans.