Colts Improve Positioning with Come-From-Behind Victory over Pittsburgh
INDIANAPOLIS – As has been the case all season, gaining ground in the AFC South wasn't to be for the Colts on Sunday.
But for a second consecutive week, the Colts controlled what they could.
In the process, they improved their playoff position.
The Colts, after back-to-back, double-digit road losses, won their second consecutive game over an AFC division leader on Sunday, rallying from a 10-point first-half deficit for a 24-20 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The victory over the Steelers allowed Indianapolis to stay within a game of New England (6-3), Pittsburgh (6-3), Baltimore (6-3) and the New York Jets (6-3), who now share the AFC's second-best record.
The Colts, New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the Jets are among 10 AFC teams with between four-to-six victories with seven games remaining. The others are Buffalo (5-4), Miami (5-4), Denver (5-4), Jacksonville (4-5) and San Diego (4-5).
The Colts have victories over three of those teams: Pittsburgh, New England and Baltimore. They have lost to Jacksonville.
The Tennessee Titans (9-0), the NFL's last remaining unbeaten team, lead the AFC South by four games and the AFC by three games.
A look at the rest of the AFC South and AFC:
Tennessee Titans (9-0)
Last week: The Titans beat the Chicago Bears, 21-14, at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill., on Sunday.
Next week: At Jacksonville (4-5) Sunday.
Recent trend: The Titans are 9-0 for the first time in franchise history, and have won a league-best 12 consecutive regular-season games, setting a franchise record. Their four-game lead is their largest since the 2002 inception of the AFC South. Until this season, they hadn't led the South since 2002, when they won the first title in the division's history.
What happened Sunday: With the running game atypically stagnant, Titans quarterback Kerry Collins had one of his best games of the season, completing 30 of 41 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns as Tennessee held off Chicago to remain the NFL's lone unbeaten team. The Titans held Chicago to 3 of 14 on third-down conversions and 243 total yards.
Statistically speaking: The Titans entered the game as the NFL's third-ranked rushing team, but struggled throughout the victory over the Bears. Tennessee rushed for minus-5 yards in the first half and finished the game with 20 yards rushing on 29 carries, an average of less than a yard a carry. Rookie running back Chris Johnson rushed for eight yards on 14 carries and LenDale White rushed for 14 yards on 10 carries.
Coming up: The Titans will visit Jacksonville (4-5) Sunday, then will play host to the New York Jets (6-3) the following week. Tennessee will visit Detroit (0-9) on Thanksgiving Day and will play host to Cleveland (3-6) before visiting Houston (3-6).
Quote to note: "It's nice to win a ballgame and not play well. . . . We overcame an awful lot of issues, problems, and still found a way to win (against a) good football team today.''
--- Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5)
Last week: The Jaguars beat the Detroit Lions, 38-14, at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., on Sunday.
Next week: Home against Tennessee (9-0).
Recent trend: The Jaguars snapped a two-game losing streak on Sunday and are under .500 after nine games for the first time since 2003, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's first season. Their victory over Detroit Sunday enabled the Jaguars to avoid becoming the first team in NFL history to lose consecutive games to winless teams with six or more losses.
What happened Sunday: The Jaguars fell behind 7-3 after the first quarter, but running back Maurice Jones-Drew scored on touchdown runs of 6, 1 and 8 yards to give the Jaguars a 24-7 halftime lead. Quarterback David Garrard completed 18 of 25 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns and did not throw an interception.
Statistically speaking: The Jaguars had struggled to run effectively much of the season. Not Sunday. Pro Bowl running back Fred Taylor rushed for 80 yards after having rushed for 25 yards or less in the previous five games. Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 70 yards after rushing for just 62 in the previous two games. As a team, the Jaguars rushed for 157 yards on 33 carries after rushing for 68 yards in a loss to Cincinnati the previous week. Taylor surpassed 11,000 yards rushing for his career.
Coming up: The Jaguars play host to division-leading Tennessee (9-0) Sunday, then will play host to Minnesota (5-4) the following week. They then play back-to-back road games at Houston (3-6) and Chicago (5-4) before playing host to Green Bay (4-5) and Indianapolis (5-4) the following two weeks.
Quote to note: "It's an honor. I've been scrapping my whole career. It's a tribute to my persistence, my will, my determination. It feels good to have done it in (Hall of Fame running back) Barry Sanders') house. This is a good place."
--- Jaguars Running Back Fred Taylor
Houston Texans (3-6)
Last week: The Texans lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 41-13, at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Sunday.
Next week: At Indianapolis (5-4).
Recent trend: The Texans, after winning three consecutive games to move to within a game of .500, have lost back-to-back games, losing at Minnesota 28-21 last week, then losing to the Ravens at home Sunday. It was their first home loss since they squandered a 17-point fourth-quarter lead against Indianapolis in Week 5.
What happened Sunday: After playing the Ravens tough for three quarters, Houston allowed Baltimore 22 fourth-quarter points. The Ravens led, 19-13, entering the fourth quarter and extended the lead to 27-13 on the first possession of the period. Interceptions thrown by Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels ended the next two drives and led directly to Ravens touchdowns.
Statistically speaking: Sage Rosenfels, playing in place of injured starting quarterback Matt Schaub, threw four interceptions, two of which led directly to touchdowns. The Ravens also registered a safety. The Ravens held the Texans to 75 yards rushing and Houston was penalized 10 times for 76 yards.
Coming up: The Texans will visit Indianapolis (5-4) and Cleveland (3-6) the next two weeks before playing host to Jacksonville (4-5) on December 1. They will then visit Green Bay (4-5) before playing host to Tennessee (9-0).
Quote to note: "We just fell apart at a certain point in the football game. We played a tough football game against a good team until late in the third quarter and then we just self-destructed."
--- Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak
New England (6-3): They haven't been as dominant as last season, but after nine games, the Patriots are in a familiar place: first place in the AFC East. The five-time defending division champions, New England won a key division game at home Sunday, dominating the Buffalo Bills, 20-10, in Foxboro, Mass. The Patriots outgained the Bills, 370-169, and the Patriots intercepted Buffalo twice. New England held the Bills to 58 second-half yards.
New York Jets (6-3): The Jets thoroughly dominated the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, taking a 40-0 halftime lead en route to a 47-3 victory. They have won three consecutive games and five of the last six, with the only loss coming at Oakland in overtime. The Jets, who will play the Patriots for first place in the East on Thursday, came within a point of the franchise record for points in the first half.
Buffalo (5-4): They started the season in dominant fashion, taking the lead in the division, but after a 20-10 loss to the Patriots Sunday, the Bills are out of first place for the first time this season. Buffalo has lost four of five games after a 4-0 start. "We realized this was a big pivotal game," Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "We have to get a winning feeling and we don't have that now."
Miami (5-4): How much have the Dolphins improved? A year ago, they won one game. Now, they have won three consecutive games and are a game out of first place nine games into the season. A 21-19 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday put them a game over .500 for the first time since the 2005 season. The Dolphins took a 14-0 lead in the first half, and after Seattle cut the lead to one point, a 16-yard run by Ronnie Brown pushed the lead to 21-13. The Seahawks scored on a 3-yard pass from Seneca Wallace to Koren Robinson with 3:03 remaining, but their two-point conversion pass failed.
Pittsburgh (6-3): Needing a victory to maintain their lead in the AFC North, the Steelers lost a 10-point first-half lead in a 24-20 loss to the Colts. It was the Steelers' second consecutive loss at home, and enabled the Baltimore Ravens to move into a first-place tie in the division. The Colts intercepted Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger three times, with two setting up short touchdown drives and another coming in the end zone on the game's final play. "You'll never hear me say 'I' anything, but I lost this game,'' Roethlisberger said. "I take it on myself. I let the guys down on offense and defense. It hurts, but we'll learn from it.''
Baltimore (6-3): One of the NFL's surprise stories of the season, the Ravens on Sunday moved into a tie for first place in the AFC North with a 41-13 victory over the Houston Texans. The Ravens, who have scored at least 27 points in a franchise-record four consecutive games, on Sunday scored more than 40 points on the road for the first time since 1999. "We can still grow immensely," said Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. "We're getting better and better each week. Our main goal is to improve each week and hit our stride right when it counts most."
Cleveland (3-6): The Browns had a chance to put themselves in solid postseason position before the past two weeks. On Thursday, with a chance to inch back toward .500, the Browns gave 2007 first-round draft selection Brady Quinn his first start at quarterback and took a 23-13 lead entering the fourth quarter before Denver rallied with three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Quinn completed 23 of 35 passes for 239 yards and two touchdown passes to tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. Cleveland lost a 14-point second-half lead in a loss to Baltimore the previous week.
Cincinnati (1-8): The Bengals were idle this past weekend.
Denver (5-4): After one of the most impressive starts in the NFL, the Broncos struggled before a victory at Cleveland on Thursday. And early on, they struggled against the Browns, too. The Broncos rallied from a 23-13 deficit with three fourth-quarter touchdowns – all on touchdown passes by quarterback Jay Cutler – for a 34-30 victory. Cutler, who has developed this season into one of the NFL's top young quarterbacks, completed 24 of 42 passes for 447 yards and three touchdowns and a touchdown. Cutler's 14-yard pass to Brandon Marshall with 1:14 remaining gave Denver its 19th victory in its last 21 meetings against Cleveland.
San Diego (4-5): They were booed at halftime, but the Chargers held off a late rally by the Kansas City Chiefs to remain in the AFC playoff chase. After firing defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, the Chargers' defense saved the victory when safety Clinton Hart knocked down a two-point conversion pass from Chiefs quarterback Tyler Thigpen with 23 seconds remaining. San Diego took its first lead with 6:55 remaining.
Oakland (2-7): A difficult season for the Raiders continued Sunday with a 17-6 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Oakland. The Raiders, who have scored just nine touchdowns this season, haven't scored a touchdown in the last nine quarters and lost Sunday despite intercepting Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme four times. Delhomme completed 7 of 27 passes for 72 yards and he became the second quarterback since the merger in 1970 to complete fewer than 30 percent of his passes and throw four interceptions in a victory.
Kansas City (1-8): The season been difficult, but that doesn't mean the Chiefs haven't been competitive. They have lost their last three games by a total of eight points, with the latest loss coming at San Diego Sunday, 20-19. Tight end Tony Gonzalez's three-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Tyler Thigpen with 23 seconds remaining pulled the Chiefs to within one, but a two-point conversion pass fell incomplete.