Idle Colts Slip Two and a Half Games Behind AFC South-Leading Tennessee
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts' early-season deficit in the AFC South got a bit larger Sunday.
One reason was that the Colts didn't play.
Another was that while the Colts were off, the unbeaten Tennessee Titans – one of the NFL's hottest teams throughout September – finished off the month in the same way.
The Titans, the only team aside from the Colts ever to win the AFC South, beat the Minnesota Vikings, 30-17, on Sunday at LP Field in Nashville, remaining unbeaten after four games for the first time in the franchise's 49-year history.
The Titans (4-0) are now two games ahead of Jacksonville – a 30-27 overtime winner over AFC South rival Houston on Sunday in Jacksonville – and are two-and-a-half games ahead of five-time defending division champion Indianapolis (1-2).
"It's still so early," Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. "What we're trying to do is just build wins, just trying to win the next one. Six, seven weeks from now, we can start talking on those lines (an AFC South title). . . .
"Our division for whatever reason . . . has got off to a slow start. . . . We just have to make the best of our opunities."
The Colts, who never had trailed the division by more than a game before last week, are now two and a half games out of first place for the first time since the division's 2002 inception.
The Colts entered this season having led the division for 60 consecutive weeks and had held or shared the lead in the division in 95 of a possible 102 weeks.
A look at the rest of the AFC South and AFC:
Tennessee Titans (4-0)
Last week: The Titans beat the Minnesota Vikings, 30-17, at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday.
Next week: At Baltimore (2-0) Sunday.
Recent trend: The Titans are 4-0 for the first time in franchise history, and have won a league-best seven consecutive regular-season games. They won four games in September for the second time in franchise history, with the first time coming in 1979, when they won four of five games that month.
What happened Sunday: As they have done throughout the season, the Titans won a game because of an opportunistic offense and a big-play defense. Rookie running back Chris Johnson scored two touchdowns and the Titans turned four Vikings turnovers into 21 points. The Titans took a 20-7 lead in the first half and held off a late Vikings rally, with Titans quarterback Kerry Collins completing 18 of 35 passes for 199 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions.
Statistically speaking: The Titans, who had allowed an NFL-low 29 points in the first three games of the season, allowed 17 to the Vikings, and needed a late stop and a touchdown to pull away from a 23-17 fourth-quarter lead. The victory was the 124th of Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher's career, tying him with George Seifert for 25th place on the NFL's all-time victories list.
Coming up: The Titans visit Baltimore (2-0) on October 5. The Titans' bye week is October 12, after which they play at Kansas City on October 19.
Quote to note: "We don't feel like we're there yet. We feel like we haven't played a complete game yet. . . . We just feel like we're struggling. Even though we're struggling, we know we're struggling in the right direction."
--- Titans Cornerback Nick Harper
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)
Last week: The Jaguars beat the Houston Texans, 30-27, in overtime at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.
Next week: Home against Pittsburgh (2-1).
Recent trend: After losing their first two games, the Jaguars have won back-to-back games in dramatic fashion, first beating Indianapolis on a 51-yard field goal with :04 remaining a week ago, then beating the Houston Texans in overtime on Sunday.
What happened Sunday: Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee, whose field goal beat the Colts a week ago, connected on a 37-yarder with 11:25 remaining in overtime. Quarterback David Garrard made two key completions on the game-winning drive, completing a 24-yard pass to wide receiver Matt Jones on third down to move the ball to the Houston 41, then throwing to running back Greg Jones for 22 more yards. Scobee's field goal came two plays after the pass to Greg Jones, ending the first possession of overtime.
Statistically speaking: Jaguars quarterback David Garrard completed 23 of 32 for 236 yards, also running seven times for 41 yards, 31 of which came on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive. Jaguars fullback Montell Owens had a 41-yard touchdown run on his first career carry. It was the Jaguars' longest run of the season and the team's longest touchdown run by a back other than Fred Taylor or Maurice Jones-Drew since 2002.
Coming up: The Jaguars play host to Pittsburgh (2-1) Sunday and are at Denver (3-1) the following week. The Jaguars are off the week of October 19 and will play host to the Cleveland Browns (1-3) on October 26.
Quote to note: "Every kicker lives for this moment. Either you make a living doing it or you don't. This year, I've gotten two opportunities and made both of them. I've been very fortunate."
-- Jaguars Kicker Josh Scobee
Houston Texans (0-3)
Last week: The Texans lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 30-27, at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday.
Next week: Home against Indianapolis (1-2).
Recent trend: The Texans, who had won three of the previous four meetings with Jacksonville, slipped to 0-3 for the third time in franchise history. In 2005, they started 0-6 and in 2006, they started 0-3 before winning their fourth game.
What happened Sunday: The Texans outgained the Jaguars, 386-375, had 23 first downs to 21 for the Jaguars and converted 9 of 13 third downs, but after tying the game on the final play of regulation, Houston couldn't stop the Jaguars in overtime. Jacksonville drove for a field goal on the first possession of the extra period to keep the Texans without a victory.
Statistically speaking: Texans quarterback Matt Schaub had his best game of the season, completing 29 of 40 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also directed touchdown drives of 91, 80 and 85 yards and did not commit a turnover for the first time this season. He had thrown five interceptions while being sacked eight times in the first two games of the season.
Coming up: The Texans, after not having played a home game in September, will play home games the next three consecutive weeks: Indianapolis on October 5, Miami on October 12 and Detroit on October 19.
Quote to note: "It stings a lot. It hurts a lot every time you lose in this business. Knowing we were that close to winning and falling one play short, that hurts. That's the nature of this game."
--- Texans Quarterback Matt Schaub
Buffalo (4-0): The Bills' early-season success continued Sunday and they moved to 4-0 for the first time since 1992. On Sunday, they rallied from a 14-6 second-half deficit with 18 fourth-quarter points en route to a 31-14 victory at St. Louis. The Bills, who haven't had a winning season since 1999, had won their previous two games by a total of five points. Buffalo has won seven AFC East titles, but none since 1995.
New England (2-1): The Patriots were idle this past week.
New York Jets (2-2): Jets quarterback Brett Favre has had huge games in an 18-year NFL career, but never before Sunday had he thrown six touchdown passes in a single game. Favre, who joined the Jets shortly before the season, completed 24 of 34 passes for 289 yards and six touchdowns with an interception in a 56-35 victory over Arizona Sunday. Favre, who spent the past 16 seasons with Green Bay, had thrown five touchdown passes in a game three times, but had not done so since 1998. Favre tied the Jets' franchise record held by Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, who threw six touchdown passes in a 44-34 victory over Baltimore in 1972.
Miami (1-2): The Dolphins were idle this past week.
Baltimore (2-0): The Ravens will visit Pittsburgh (2-1) Monday night.
Pittsburgh (2-1): The Steelers will play host to Baltimore (2-0) Monday night.
Cleveland (1-3): After narrowly missing the playoffs last season, the Browns were expected to contend for an AFC North title this season. They started the season 0-3, and entered the fourth quarter against Cincinnati Sunday trailing, 6-3. Browns quarterback Derek Anderson completed 15 of 24 passes for 138 passes with a touchdown and an interception. He started the game 6 of 12 for 48 yards and an interception before completing a touchdown pass to wide receiver Braylon Edwards early in the fourth quarter that gave the Browns a lead they never relinquished.
Cincinnati (0-4): A difficult season for the Bengals continued Sunday. With quarterback Carson Palmer out with a sore elbow and missing a game for the first time since 2004, Bengals reserve quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions. The Bengals are 0-4 for the first time in Head Coach Marvin Lewis' tenure.
Denver (3-1): The Broncos made winning offensive shootouts a habit en route to a 3-0 record. But on Sunday, the Denver offense struggled and the defense couldn't contain Chiefs running back Larry Johnson, who rushed for nearly 200 yards in a 33-19 Kansas City victory. The Broncos pulled to within seven points, 26-19, late in the fourth quarter, but after a failed onside kick, the Chiefs moved for a clinching touchdown on a 16-yard run by Johnson.
San Diego (2-2): For three quarters Sunday, 1-3 looked like a real possibility for the defending AFC West Champions. The Chargers, who have won 10 consecutive games against Oakland, trailed by 12 points before outscoring the Raiders 25-3 in the fourth quarter. Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 75 of his 106 yards in the fourth quarter.
Oakland (1-3): The Raiders are a pair of difficult fourth quarters from being tied for first place in the division. They led by nine points in the fourth quarter of a loss to Buffalo last week, then led San Diego 15-3 entering the fourth quarter Sunday before the Chargers rallied for a 28-18 victory. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell completed 22 of 37 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown, but committed two turnovers – an interception and a fumble – that led to two San Diego fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Kansas City (1-3): Chiefs running back Larry Johnson rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns and the Chiefs beat the previously-unbeaten Denver Broncos, 33-19. The victory ended the Chiefs' losing streak at 12 games, a franchise record. "It's like getting the whole world off your back,'' cornerback Brandon Flowers said. "Twelve games – that's real tough.'' The Chiefs' point total was their highest since 2006.