INDIANAPOLIS –A game that Chuck Pagano described as the biggest his team had played all season was more of a slugfest than heavyweight fight, but that was fine with Cory Redding.
"That was a backyard street brawl," said Redding moments after the Colts took a 22-14 decision over Tennessee. "You got called out in your neighborhood by the biggest kid, and you had to fight. That's what it was."
The Colts bobbed and weaved with Tennessee through the first three quarters by answering two Titans touchdowns with five field goals and offsetting five sacks with three takeaways, but with eight minutes to go, a definitive blow needed to be made.
Indianapolis delivered the punch with an 11-play, 92-yard drive that featured 78 of the day's 104 rushing yards, with four of Donald Brown's 46 yards on the drive tallying the club's lone touchdown with 1:56 remaining.
"A grind-it-out win, that's for sure," said Luck as the Colts moved within one win of earning a second straight playoff berth.
The day was a struggle for the Colts the entire way. Taking a first-half lead for the first time in five Sundays, Indianapolis led 6-0 after 15 minutes. Adam Vinatieri hit 47- and 48-yard field goals as Colts drive stalled around the Tennessee 30.
After falling behind 7-6, Indianapolis reached the Tennessee 22, but a five-yard loss on first down killed the march and led to Vinatieri's third kick. He added a 37-yarder on the final play of the first half after a Tennessee penalty on the final scrimmage play.
The Colts were sputtering with 25-of-30 rushing yards coming on two plays and after converting two-of-nine third downs, but the 12-7 lead accounted for the first halftime advantage since October 20.
Tennessee seized a 14-12 lead with a 14-play drive to open the second half, and then the brawl got in full force.
Robert Mathis' sack-strip of Ryan Fitzpatrick at the Colts' 42 set the club up for a fifth Vinatieri field goal late in the third quarter. Cassius Vaughn swiped a Fitzpatrick pass moments later, but the Colts could not capitalize.
After the teams traded three punts, Indianapolis was at its eight with 8:08 left. It was time for the fight to be settled.
Brown, who entered the drive with eight rushes for eight yards, ran for 21 yards on his first three carries. Luck supplemented those with an eight-yard run and a six-yard pass.
On third-and-two at his 43 with 4:51 to go and with his team having converted two-of-13 third downs, Luck kept for 24 yards around the right side in one of the season's key plays.
"It was a sort of designed bootleg pass," said Luck. "Stanley Havili was open, but I figured (it's) safer to just keep the ball and run it than to try and pass it there. I felt like I'd get some extra yards, so I didn't step out of bounds and wanted to stay in bounds and let that clock keep running."
Brown followed with 14- and seven-yard runs and after a 13-yard reception by Coby Fleener to the Tennessee four, Brown scored two plays later for the eight-point margin.
Jerrell Freeman ended the game with an interception of Fitzpatrick, the Colts' fourth takeaway.
"Yeah, 100 percent of the time," said Luck on if he would take an ugly win. "Sometimes you just got to gut a win out, no matter how ugly it is. I'll never complain about a win. I don't think you'll hear anybody in that locker room complain about a win, especially against Tennessee."
Tennessee made life rough for Luck (17-for-32, 200 yards), sacking him a season-high five times among seven hits, while having one interception. The Titans forced five three-and-outs and were stingy until the final drive.
"It was time to put something together," said Pagano. "Division hanging in the balance, everything on the line and the guys manned up just like they did in the first ballgame against these guys.
"We were able to run the ball, chew up the clock and put together a touchdown drive. Execution, grit, toughness, all that stuff plays a hand in it."
Pagano, who awarded game balls to Vinatieri, Brown and the entire defense had praise for his quarterback who hung tough and led the way.
"Down the stretch, it'd be real easy for other quarterbacks going through what he went through for three and a half quarters from a frustration standpoint (to be discouraged)," said Pagano. "He's got the uncanny ability to block all that stuff out and move on and go to the next play. It's just Andrew being Andrew and finding a way to will this team to a victory."
COLTS NOTES – The Colts have started 4-0 in the division for the fourth time in AFC South history, doing so also in 2005, 2007 and 2009…with the win, the Colts have earned a winning divisional record for the 10th time in 12 AFC South seasons…Adam Vinatieri hit five FGs in a game for the third time in his career, his first with the Colts, and it tied a Colts record for most in a game done on seven other occasions…Vinatieri tied Jason Elam for the NFL record with 16 100-point seasons…New England moved to 9-3 with a win over Houston to retain the AFC's second playoff seed with four games remaining…Indianapolis remains ahead of Cincinnati, next week's opponent…at 8-4, the Colts are 4-2 at home and 4-2 away…Indianapolis intercepted three passes for the second time this season (at Jacksonville), and four takeaways marked a season-best…it was the club's first multiple-takeaway game since October 20 vs. Denver…Robert Mathis has 107.0 career sacks, 0.5 behind Dwight Freeney's club mark…Mathis, who earned special post-game citation from Pagano, had a 41st career strip-sack, extending his NFL record…Mathis set the mark last week in the loss at Arizona (he had been tied at 39 with Jason Taylor)…with the win Mathis had his 113th regular-season triumph, moving him into eighth-place in club history ahead of Freeney…it was the 82nd career game Mathis had with a sack, to snap the franchise record he shared with Freeney...with 7,167 passing yards, Luck moved into fourth-place for the most in the first two seasons of a career (7,920, Cam Newton; 7,874, Peyton Manning; 7,294, Dan Marino).