Colts 27, Titans 17

Peyton Manning keeps finding new winning formulas, and the Colts

keep making history.

Instead of another patented comeback or impressive air show,

Manning opened December by playing keepaway from Tennessee and

leading the Colts to a 27-17 victory for their record-tying 21st

consecutive regular-season win.

“You try to tell these guys that when you win a couple in a

row, or three or four in a row, this is not normal,” the

three-time MVP said. “It’s not normal to win 10 or 11 or 12 games

every year. But these guys that have been here five years would

tell me it is normal for us. That’s all they’ve done.”

For Indy (12-0), the milestones all seem commonplace.

Sunday’s list included:

– Matching New England’s record, set from 2006-08, with a chance

to break it next week at home against Denver. Broncos coach Josh

McDaniels was on Bill Belichick’s staff during the Patriots’ record

run.

– Extending their own NFL record of consecutive 12-win seasons

to seven.

– Remaining undefeated, the first time in league history two

teams – New Orleans is also 12-0 – have been unbeaten this late in

the season.

– And tying the 1990s San Francisco 49ers for most wins in a

decade (113), a mark they could also break against Denver.

“It (the record) is one of those things we talk about. We kind

of identify the milestones on Wednesday morning when we get in. We

talk about some of the things we’re accomplishing,” coach Jim

Caldwell said. “The guys appreciate it, but it’s not something

that goes to their heads.”

It showed.

Colts players celebrated with a nonchalant stroll toward

midfield, then shaking hands and trotting into the locker room as

though it was no different than the previous 20 wins.

But the script was different. This time, Manning took a page out

of Tennessee’s playbook, relying an effective ground game and a

ball-control offense to stymie the Titans’ comeback hopes.

Tennessee (5-7) was the last team to beat the Colts, on Oct. 27,

2008, and it wanted to bookend the streak.

While Chris Johnson ran for 100 yards in his seventh straight

game, tying Earl Campbell’s franchise record, he finished with 113

yards and fell just short of a seventh straight 125-yard game, the

Titans struggled in the red zone.

Twice in the second half, the Titans went for it on fourth down

deep in Colts’ territory and failed both times. Tennessee also

recovered an onside kick after scoring a late TD, then turned the

ball over on downs.

“We just didn’t finish in the red zone,” quarterback Vince

Young said. “Our guys made some big plays, but we just didn’t

finish. Against a team like this, with an MVP quarterback, you have

to score touchdowns.”

The Colts, however, took another approach.

Joseph Addai ran 21 times for a season-high 79 yards and two

touchdowns. Manning was 24 of 37 for 270 yards and one TD, Pierre

Garcon caught six passes for a career-high 136 yards and the

combination of quick scores in the first half, and Manning’s

ability to run clock in the second sealed Tennessee’s fate.

Indy needed just 1:58 to take a 7-0 lead, on Addai’s 8-yard run.

After Rob Bironas’ short field goal, Addai scored on a 1-yard run

to make it 14-3.

And when Young was picked off, Manning hooked up with Austin

Collie on a 4-yard TD pass to make it 21-3 with 1:55 left in the

first half.

Young answered with a 6-yard TD pass to Kenny Britt, but left

Manning 20 seconds and two timeouts – too much time.

Manning hooked up with Garcon for 18 yards on the first play and

got 15 more when Titans defensive tackle Tony Brown drew an

unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Addai ran for 5 yards on the next

play and Matt Stover made a 43-yard field goal to give Indy a 24-10

halftime lead.

That was all Manning needed.

The teams traded time-consuming drives in the third quarter and

when Manning burned up nearly half of the fourth quarter with a

drive that led to Stover’s 36-yard field goal with 3:14 to go, the

Colts were back in the record book.

“It will mean a lot if we look back at it after 16 games,”

linebacker Clint Session said. “Right now, it really means nothing

to us. We’re just trying to win every game we play.”

NOTES: Three Titans players were hurt during the game – safety

Michael Griffin (shoulder), tight end Jared Cook (concussion) and

fullback Ahmard Hall (ankle). … Colts WR Reggie Wayne caught four

passes for 48 yards and now has 1,035 yards receiving. …

Manning’s TD pass to Collie extended his NFL record streak of

consecutive 25-TD seasons to 12.