Colts Stay Unbeaten with 31-9 Victory over Tennessee at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.
The milestones mattered not a bit.
Not to quarterback Peyton Manning, and not anyone around the Colts Sunday night.
So, although Manning – now in his 12th season as the Colts' starting quarterback – extended a franchise record and moved closer to an NFL record on Sunday night, he said after a 31-9 victory over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., neither mattered.
What mattered was this:
The Colts are 5-0. They're 2-0 in the AFC South and in first place.
And they're 3-0 on the road.
A fifth consecutive 300-yard game to start the season, a franchise record? The fact that he is one game from tying the NFL record for consecutive 300-yard games to start the season?
No matter, Manning said.
"I've been playing a long time," Manning told NBC Sunday Night Football's Andrea Kremer after completing 36-of-44 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
"This is a big win for us on the road. That's all I'm thinking about was getting the win."
The victory was the Colts' third prime-time road victory in as many games over a team that made the postseason a year ago. Indianapolis beat 2008 AFC East Champion Miami, 27-23, in Miami in Week 2, then beat defending NFC Champion Arizona, 31-10, in Arizona in Week 3.
The Titans led the AFC South from start to finish last season.
With the victory, Indianapolis – the AFC South Champion from 2003-2007 and a playoff team in 2002 and 2008 – not only moved five games ahead of the defending AFC South champion Titans (0-5), they also took a three-game lead on the two teams tied for second in the division, Jacksonville (2-3) and Houston (2-3).
"That's what our goal was, to go into the bye week 5-0," Colts cornerback Tim Jennings told Colts Radio.
Jacksonville lost at Seattle, 41-0, Sunday and the Texans lost at Arizona, 28-21.
"We've kind of widened the gap, but nothing's been clinched yet, so we've got a long way to go," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell told Colts Radio. "We've got a lot of battles ahead of us."
The Colts have won a franchise record 14 consecutive regular-season games, and their seven consecutive road victories are also a franchise record.
It's the fifth time in the last seven seasons the Colts have won their first five games. They started 5-0 in 2003, 13-0 in 2005, 9-0 in 2006 and 7-0 in 2007.
They led the AFC South from start to finish each season, and on Sunday, they increased their lead in the division with a third consecutive dominant performance. They also did so without cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden (hamstring) and Marlin Jackson (knee), as well as safety Bob Sanders (knee), left tackle Charlie Johnson (knee) and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (knee).
The Colts, who have split with Tennessee each of the last three seasons and who lost at LP Field, 31-21, in late October of last season, inched ahead throughout the first half with a similar formula to that they have used the last two weeks.
"Overall, we were very, very efficient," Caldwell said.
They were efficient offensively, with Manning registering his fourth consecutive game with a passer rating of more than 100 and with four different receivers finishing with more than 50 yards receiving.
And they were dominant at times defensively, with defensive end Dwight Freeney registering his sixth sack of the season and with the Colts holding Tennessee – one of the NFL's top rushing offenses – to 90 yards. It was the third consecutive game in which the Colts have held their opponent under 100 yards rushing.
Indianapolis held Arizona to 24 yards rushing, then held Seattle to 49 yards in a 34-17 Week 4 victory.
"If we can play like that consistently, the sky's the limit," Colts safety Melvin Bullitt told Colts Radio.
The Colts held Titans running back Chris Johnson, who entered the game as the NFL's leading rusher with 434 yards on 69 carries – an average of 6.3 yards per rush – to 34 yards on nine carries.
"Our front four is really stepping up their game," Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett, who returned after missing two consecutive games with a knee injury, told Colts Radio. "They were really aggressive against the run today. Guys played the run well."
Said linebacker Clint Session to Colts Radio, "We made them one dimensional, like we did the teams before. It's working out pretty good right now."
The Colts took control in the first half, taking an early 7-0 lead, then extending it to double digits by halftime despite a pair of first-half turnovers.
It was an early turnover that set up the Colts' first touchdown.
First, Colts safety Antoine Bethea hit Titans tight end Alge Crumpler, forcing a fumble that defensive end Keyunta Dawson recovered at the Titans 23. Five plays later, Manning passed three yards to wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who caught the ball just over the goal line near the right sideline for a 7-0 lead.
The Titans cut it to 7-6 with field goals of 49 and 43 yards by Pro Bowl kicker Rob Bironas, with each field goal set up by a Colts turnover – the first a muffed punt by cornerback T.J. Rushing and the second an interception of Manning by Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck.
The Colts' defense held the Titans without a first down after each turnover and Indianapolis used the second quarter to take control of the game's momentum.
Early in the period, Manning drove the Colts 81 yards on 12 plays, with fourth-year running back Joseph Addai scoring on a 1-yard run to push the Indianapolis lead to 14-6.
A 46-yard field goal by Bironas cut the Colts' lead to five, but Manning – as he had done on several occasions this season – moved the Colts quickly for a critical touchdown late in the first half. Taking possession with :57 remaining in the second quarter, the Colts moved 93 yards in six plays, a drive assisted by two roughing-the-passer penalties against the Titans.
Manning capped the drive with a 39-yard, catch-and-run, tackle-breaking touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Austin Collie with 17 seconds remaining before halftime.
"We had a double post called," Collie said. "They had been staying in a base defense all night with no nickel. We thought we could take advantage of that and we did."
Collie beat Bulluck down the middle on the play.
"It's tough for a linebacker to cover Collie down the middle," Manning said.
Indianapolis pushed the lead to 28-9 with a 6-yard, play-action touchdown pass from Manning to Collie early in the third quarter, and a 23-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri made it 31-9.
"We were extremely pleased with the way we played," Caldwell said. "That's a good football team, even though a lot of people were saying, 'Well, they were 0-4 before our game.' They still have weapons. They still have firepower. They're not a much different team than what they were last year from a personnel standpoint.
"To come here, to a place where it's so tough to play, in a division game, to get a division victory the way we got it – it's really good."