Colts finally get 1st win, beating Titans 27-13By CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer Monday, Dec 19, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—The Indianapolis Colts piled up wins for more than a decade. Their victory Sunday might go down as one of their most memorable.
After 14 straight losses, 50 weeks without a win and 14 years between non-Peyton Manning victories, the Colts don’t have to worry about 0-16 anymore. They’re 1-13.
Dan Orlovsky threw a touchdown pass and had the key block to spring an 80-yard touchdown run that sealed Indianapolis’ 27-13 victory over Tennessee, giving Orlovsky the first win of his NFL career.
“To finally get one, and in the aspect of a lot of certain situations, it feels great,” Orlovsky said. “I’m very humbled to be a part of it. I’m happy for a lot of people on this team, for a lot of people in this organization. It is a lot better than the feeling we have had lately.”
And for a change, the Colts had plenty to smile about.
Orlovsky had lost his nine previous NFL starts including the season-finale in Detroit’s 0-16 season. He’s the first quarterback not named Manning to win a game for the Colts since December 1997 when Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback.
Brown ran 16 times for a career-high 161 yards, tying Tom Matte’s franchise record for longest run, set in 1964. The breakout performance might also temporarily quiet some of Brown’s biggest critics, who have labeled him a first-round draft bust.
Indy’s much-maligned defense forced three turnovers, scored a touchdown on Jacob Lacey’s 32-yard interception return and stopped Tennessee (7-7) on fourth down with less than 2 minutes left so Orlovsky could run out the clock with the traditional kneel-down.
Even coach Jim Caldwell got some support.
“I just want to say how happy I am for Coach Caldwell, our coaching staff and for our players for how diligently and spectacularly they’ve worked and prepared through all this difficulty,” team vice chairman Bill Polian said.
But the celebration was muted. After the last defensive stop, Indy’s players and coaches simply raised their arms as the remaining fans cheered loudly.
The good news was that Colts avoided becoming the first team in franchise history to go 0-14.
The bad news: They’re still playing for the No. 1 draft pick, which goes to the team with the worst overall record and will have to do it without Manning. Polian ruled him out of the last two games just minutes after the victory.
“It (winning) means a lot, but we’re a proud ballclub so one game out of 13 or 14, we still have a ways to go,” defensive end Robert Mathis said. “Everybody held the fort today. We just kept chopping wood and the tree fell today.”
For Tennessee, it’s an inexplicable loss that could keep them out of the playoffs.
By closing the season with three straight wins, the Titans could have controlled their own destiny. Now, they’ll probably have to win their last two and get help.
“In the first half, we played uninspired football on the offensive side of the ball and we still had a 6-3 lead because the defense played very well,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “You have to run the football and we couldn’t. Not only could we not run it, we were losing yards and that put us in a tough spot. The turnovers start creeping in and (Jared) Cook fumbles the one that could’ve been the chance to get something going then the interception happened. That’s really what killed us.”
There were plenty of other problems, too.
Matt Hasselbeck returned from his calf injury but didn’t play well, finishing 27 of 40 for 223 yards with no TDs and two interceptions. Chris Johnson ran 15 times for 55 yards. And when Jake Locker got the Titans back in the game after relieving Hasselbeck, the defense couldn’t corral Brown.
Locker’s 7-yard TD pass to Nate Washington with 3:43 left got the Titans to 20-13.
But on Indy’s next offensive play, Tennessee’s defense appeared to have Brown cornered in the backfield. That’s when Brown reversed field and Orlovsky jumped in front of the defender closest to him, running a basketball pick. It was just enough to get Brown a wide-open lane, and he sprinted right through it 80 yards for Indy’s longest run since Matte in 1964.
“He was about to go down. Akeem Ayers came in there for the tackle. Donald just got out of it. I went in for the tackle, and the quarterback cut me off,” safety Michael Griffin said. “From there I don’t know what happened, but we have to tackle better.”
Indy opened the scoring with a 47-yard field goal that ended a of more than 500 minutes in which the Colts never had the lead
Rob Bironas answered with two field goals before halftime to give the Titans the 6-3 lead.
This time, Indy needed only about 10 minutes to retake the lead. Orlovsky’s 18-yard TD pass to Reggie Wayne made it 10-6. Lacey followed that with his interception return and Vinatieri made it 20-6 after Indy forced a punt following a muffed kickoff that went out of bounds inside the 1.
Locker’s TD put the game back in doubt, but Brown wrapped it up with the long run.
“You just feel like a dark cloud has been removed for the time being, of course,” the excited Mathis said. “Back to work Tuesday, trying to do it again.”
Notes: Colts running back Delone Carter left in the first half with an undisclosed forearm injury and did not return. … The Titans are 0-4 at Lucas Oil Stadium. … Locker was 11 of 16 for 108 yards with one TD after relieving Hasselbeck. … Johnson had eight catches for 54 yards.