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
”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
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
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
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