Vinatieri’s 5 FGs lead Colts past Titans 22-14

Adam Vinatieri still has it. Donald Brown does, too.

When both delivered throwback performances Sunday, it lifted the

Indianapolis Colts closer to the playoffs.

Vinatieri, the oldest player in the league tied a career-high

with five field goals and matched an NFL record with four 40-plus

yard field goals in one game.

Brown, the Colts’ forgotten 2009 first-round pick, scored on a

4-yard TD run with 1:56 left to give Indianapolis a 22-14 victory

over Tennessee.

”Those are by no means chip shots,” Andrew Luck said after

another troubling offensive showing with only 264 total yards. ”To

have a guy like that (Vinatieri), it, well, it really makes a

difference.”

Indy (8-4) has a three-game lead over the Titans (5-7) with four

left and a sweep of the season series. The Colts can wrap up their

eighth AFC South title in 11 seasons with one more win, one more

Titans loss or a tie by either team.

It hasn’t been easy reaching this point, especially after losing

five offensive starters with season-ending injuries, and with Trent

Richardson struggling.

So coach Chuck Pagano shook up things after two blowout losses

in the last three weeks. He surprised many by moving Brown into the

starting lineup ahead of Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012

by Cleveland who Indy traded for in September. Pagano replaced Mike

McGlynn at right guard with Jeff Linkenbach and also started

cornerback Darius Butler ahead of Cassius Vaughn.

Vaughn picked off two of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s passes, and Brown

continued to beat up on the Titans despite rushing for only 8 yards

in the first 52 minutes. He had 46 yards on the final drive and

gave Indy its only touchdown.

”I guess it was time to put something together and with the

division hanging in the balance, the guys manned up,” Pagano said,

explaining that Brown earned a rare start and the two backs would

both continue rotate. ”Just like the first game down there, we

were able to run the ball, chew up the clock.”

They needed Vinatieri even more than Brown.

The soon-to-be 41-year-old resembled his much younger self,

tying a career high with four field goals in the first half and

matching his full-game career high when he hit a perfect 49-yarder

for a 15-14 lead late in the third quarter. His fifth field goal

also equaled Jason Elam’s NFL record with a 16th 100-point season,

and he joined Morten Andersen as the only players to score 800

points with two teams. He’s the 10th player in league history to

make four 40-yard field goals in a game.

To Vinatieri, it was just another work day.

”You never know how it’s going to go, and you don’t know how

you’re going to be needed and used,” he said. ”Today was one of

those days that I was needed and used a bunch.”

Without him, the Colts might be lamenting their first

back-to-back losses since December 2011.

Luck was just 17 of 32 for 200 yards with no TDs and one

interception.

Fitzpatrick wasn’t much better. Though he scored on a 1-yard

plunge in the first half and gave the Titans a 14-12 lead in the

third quarter on an ugly 1-yard TD pass to Chris Johnson,

Fitzpatrick was 21 of 37 for 201 yards with one TD. Johnson managed

only 69 yards on 18 carries.

”I didn’t play well. We had a shot at the end there,”

Fitzpatrick said. ”I didn’t get the job done, and it hurts. For me

to come out and not play well hurts.”

The miscues proved costly.

Tennessee gave away three points just before halftime when Moise

Fokou’s personal foul extended the half by one play. Vinatieri

cashed in with a 37-yarder.

Then, after taking the 14-12 lead, Fitzpatrick had the Titans in

scoring position again until NFL sacks leader Robert Mathis

stripped him of the ball. Jerrell Freeman scooped it up and ran it

to the Titans 32. Four plays later, Vinatieri hit the 49-yarder to

give Indy the lead for good.

”It puts us in a spot now where we’ve got to win four games in

a row,” coach Mike Munchak said. ”We have no control of what that

may or may not mean.”

Fitzpatrick was picked off two more times before Brown sealed it

with his strong run up the middle.

”Pros grind it out,” Brown said. ”They take it one week at a

time and just keep rolling along.”

NOTES: The Titans lost two more tight ends Sunday. Delanie

Walker left with a concussion in the first quarter and Collin

Mooney was taken by golf cart into the locker room with what

appeared to be a left leg injury in the second half. … Indy

defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (sprained foot) and running

back Daniel ”Boom” Herron (strained pectoral) should have MRIs on

Sunday night, Pagano said. … Kicker Rob Bironas joined Al Del

Greco as the only Titans in the NFL’s 1,000-point club.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org