SEEING REDIndianapolis entered Thursday night's game against Tennessee ranked first in the NFL in red zone offense, scoring on 40-of-41 attempts. The Colts also entered having scored touchdowns on 29 of those drives for an NFL-best 70.7 percent touchdown efficiency.
Tennessee's defense came into the game ranked first in the NFL inside the red zone, allowing a 36-percent touchdown rate. In 50 opponent's possessions inside the 20-yard line this season, the Titans had allowed just 18 touchdowns.
Something had to give, and early on, the Colts took advantage.
They entered the red zone five times, scoring on all five of those possessions, including three touchdowns.
"We've been really good in the red zone," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. "Our red zone production has been good, we just haven't gotten down there as much."
Indianapolis struck first as Colts running back Javarris James burst into the end zone from one-yard out on third down, giving Indianapolis a 7-0 lead late in the opening quarter.
Following a Tennessee turnover to begin the second quarter, the Colts drove into the red zone again and on second and goal from the one-yard line, Manning hit wide receiver Pierre Garcon on a slant pattern for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Manning found Garcon again for a 19-yard touchdown pass for the Colts' third consecutive score in the red zone with a little more than two minutes left in the first half. It marked the 12th consecutive red zone touchdown by the Colts.
Tennessee later held the Colts offense to two field goals, but those scores, along with a 47-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri late in the fourth were enough for the 30-28 victory.
'WE JUST NEEDED A PLAY'
While Reggie Wayne hauled in two catches longer than 45 yards Thursday night and recorded his 35th career 100-plus-yard game with four catches for 106 yards, Garcon also came up with big plays against the Titans.
On two second-down plays in the second quarter, Garcon hauled in touchdown passes from Manning, resulting in his first career multiple-touchdown game. But Garcon's biggest catch may not have resulted in a touchdown.
With less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and Tennessee trailing 27-21, Garcon caught a quick pass, broke two tackles and then raced 43 yards down the sideline.
"It was second down and we just needed a play," Garcon said. "They were hyped on defense and we just needed to make a play. You try to make a play like that every time you get the ball."
While Garcon downplayed the effect that catch made, the Colts knew just how big it was.
"They had some momentum going, so that was huge," Caldwell said of the catch. "They had taken the ball down on us and put it in the end zone. They did a good job and certainly felt good about what they had accomplished from an offensive standpoint. That play was a great effort, and it certainly flipped the field for us."
Said Manning: "It was very, very pivotal, a key play. They were starting to come down with the safety in the box and stuffed us on a couple of runs, stuffed us on third down before, stuffed us on that first-down play and had us out numbered. The guy really had pretty good coverage and (Chris) Hope did a good job leaving his man and falling off. I think he might of knocked Pierre's guy off, but Pierre did a heck of a job. We were looking for a six or seven-yard completion and Pierre did a heck of a job getting down the sideline. Huge play."
That play set up a 47-yard Vinatieri field goal, giving the Colts a two-score advantage with 2:55 remaining.
Garcon finished with six receptions for 93 yards, a 15.5-yard average, and two scores.
'I THINK OUR DEFENSE PLAYED HARD'
Caldwell has spoken the past few weeks about needing to force more turnovers, as the Colts had not gotten an interception or fumble recovery in four games.
The team answered that call Thursday night, coming up with two turnovers against the Titans and drawing praise for that effort.
"Overall, I think our defense played hard, they played tough and there were times that they came up with big stops that helped us during the course of the ballgame," Caldwell said after the game.
Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney chased Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt down and stripped the ball near the Colts sideline at the beginning of the second quarter. Linebacker Tyjuan Hagler recovered, and that set up a Manning-to-Garcon scoring pass for a two-touchdown lead.
The next turnover came as Tennessee long snapper Ken Amato sent the ball over punter Brett Kern's head. Taj Smith, in his second career NFL game, came from the outside and chased the football down, scooping it up before a Titans player could recover.
Against the Cowboys last week, Smith blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. Later in that game, he forced a fumble during a Dallas kick return.
That turnover set up another Manning-to-Garcon score to give the Colts a 21-0 lead.
"We went out there and got the job done," Freeney said. "I wouldn't say it was the prettiest, but it was pretty enough and we got that victory."
-Manning became the first player in NFL history to pass for 25-plus touchdowns in 13 consecutive seasons.
-Manning threw for his 63rd career 300-plus-yard performance, tying Dan Marino for the most 300-plus games in NFL history.
-Manning hit 4,000 passing yards for the 11th time in his 13-year career, extending his NFL record for most 4,000-plus seasons.
-Dwight Freeney recorded his fifth forced fumble of the season.
-Adam Vinatieri was a perfect three-for-three on field goals, hitting from 21, 28 and 47 yards. Vinatieri has hit 20 of 22 field goals and all 41 extra points for 101 points this season, his 14th 100-plus-point season.
-Rookie running back Javarris James scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the season.