INDIANAPOLIS – BROWN'S RETURN RESULTED IN HUGE DAY ON THE GROUND –It is no secret the Colts' most productive games running the football this year have come during the past two weeks behind a cohesive offensive line.
For the third straight game, the Colts started the same five players across the offensive line, and they also welcomed running back Donald Brown's return to the ground game on Sunday at Tennessee.
Brown (14 carries for 80 yards) and rookie running back Vick Ballard (12 carries for 55 yards) paced the way for a rushing attack that averaged five yards per carry in chewing up 171 yards rushing in the team's 19-13 victory over Tennessee.
"It takes some pressure off our quarterback, and the offensive line is doing a great job right now," Brown said. "If you can run the ball, you can control the game. It's a huge momentum swing. It demoralizes the defense."
In overtime, the Colts offense moved the ball behind the legs of Brown. On the first six plays from scrimmage, it was Brown eating up 39 yards into Titans territory.
"For (Brown) to come back and show as much pop and explosiveness as he did, short off that injury, that was great," Luck said. "It provided a nice lift and spell for Vick (Ballard). He's (Brown) a big part of this offense."
The running game also showed its power element with Delone Carter converting a fourth-and-one late in the fourth quarter. Carter burst for seven yards on that pivotal play. Carter followed up on the next play by leaping over the pile for a one-yard, game-tying touchdown with 3:24 to go.
With the five starters on the line intact for consecutive weeks, offensive guard Joe Reitz made his season debut and helped out the run game in some tackle-eligible situations.
In stringing together back-to-back wins for the first time all season, the Colts' last two rushing performances have totaled 71 attempts for 319 yards (4.5 yards per rush).
"If we want to be a great team, we know we have to win on the road, and we were able to accomplish that today," Brown said. "It was a great team win. All three phases played phenomenal, and you couldn't ask for a better situation to win on the road in a divisional game."
DEFENSE LIMITED JOHNSON'S BIG PLAYS –All week, Colts defenders talked about the ability of Chris Johnson to lull an opponent to sleep before ripping off a game-changing run.
The big play in the run game was nowhere to be found for the Titans on Sunday against Indianapolis.
Johnson had 21 carries for 99 yards, with a long rush of just 14 yards.
Coming into Sunday, Johnson was on a tear and led the league in rushing since week four of the season. He had 18 carries for 195 yards the previous week at Buffalo, but his big-play ability was held in check by the Colts.
"Great day for us," defensive end Cory Redding said. "Chris Johnson is one heck of a player, great, great talent, great competitor. I love playing against him because you know he is going to give you everything (he's) got."
The Colts' offense stole the post-game highlights with two 80-yard scoring drives, but the effort from the defense was needed in order to get the game into overtime.
Tennessee had just three second-half points, but the Titans had a chance to play for a potential game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter.
With 1:21 remaining, the Titans were at the Colts' 42-yard line and appeared to be nearing the field goal range needed for kicker Rob Bironas.
It was Redding stopping Johnson for a one-yard gain on first down, followed by a pair of Matt Hasselbeck incompletions that forced a Titans punt and kept the score locked at 13.
While the Colts running game is starting to make strides offensively, the rush defense is following suit as the unit continues to get back injured players.
"We stayed true to our gaps, even though (Johnson) found holes and got a few yards," Redding said. "Nobody pointed a finger. Nobody started jumping up and down and hollering. We said, 'No more.' He's going to get his few (plays), some pop ups here and there but no home runs. As long as we keep that ball in the field, we got a chance to win, and we didn't let him get the big run on us."
VINATIERI HIGHLIGHTS ACCOLADES FOR COLTS –On a blustery afternoon in Nashville, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri became the eighth player in NFL history with 400 career field goals.
A 20-yard field goal by Vinatieri in the opening quarter tied the scored at three, with the 17-year vet playing in his 250th NFL game (the second-most among active players). It was his 44-yarder in the third quarter that allowed Vinatieri to reach the milestone.
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne had seven catches for 91 yards, including a critical 20-yard pick up on third-and-10 on the game-winning drive. Wayne's production pushed him past Lenny Moore for second-place on the Colts' all-time all-purpose yardage list with 12,465 yards.
The Colts defense recorded two sacks of Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on the afternoon. Second-year defensive tackle Drake Nevis had his first career sack on the Titans' opening possession, helping to force a field goal. Outside linebacker Jerry Hughes notched his third sack of the season in the fourth quarter.
For the seventh straight game, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman led the team in tackles with 14 stops, 11 solo.