NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener was asked what turned things around in the second half of Thursday night's key AFC South matchup against the Tennessee Titans.
"There was no magic speech," he said. "Just a matter of better execution."
Indeed, the Indianapolis offense dominated the second half in leading a rally from a 17-6 deficit that produced a 30-27 win at sold-out LP Field and a three-game division advantage with six games remaining.
Scoring on four of their six possessions -- one was a punt, the other was three kneel-downs to end the game -- the Colts (7-3) owned the ball for 19:27 after intermission.
"A phenomenal job in the second half," Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. "It speaks to the character and mindset of the guys. They were bound and determined to find a way. It was a great team win."
The Colts simply pounded away at Tennessee (4-6), rushing 24 times for 99 yards in the second half and mixing in timely throws from quarterback Andrew Luck, who was 11-of-15 after halftime for 124 yards.
Running back Donald Brown capped a drive of 6:27 with a 7-yard touchdown run to start the third quarter, cutting the Titan lead to 17-13. On the ensuing kickoff, Devon Wylie, playing his first game for Tennessee, fumbled the ball after running into his own blocker and Indianapolis running back Daniel Herron recovered at the Titans' 20-yard line.
Two plays later, Luck pass-faked and rumbled 11 yards for a touchdown and a 20-17 Colts lead with 7:36 left in the quarter. It finished a stretch where they ran 25 straight plays, dating back to their last drive of the first half.
"Another seven-point play, really," Tennessee coach Mike Munchak said of Wylie's fumble and Luck's score. "When you're playing three-point games, two-point games, you can't give away points."
After Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri and Titans kicker Rob Bironas traded field goals, the Colts gained possession after an exchange of punts at their 26-yard line with 7:41 remaining in the game.
Mixing in power runs with Luck's 14-yard completion to Fleener, who finished with eight receptions for 107 yards, Indianapolis chewed up 4:40 on an 11-play drive. Brown, who bagged 80 yards on 14 carries, burst the last 11 yards for the clinching score at the 3:01 mark.
"They did exactly what they wanted to do," Munchak said. "We didn't stop them."
Tennessee quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hit tight end Delanie Walker with a 19-yard scoring strike with 1:54 left, drawing the team within three points. But Colts linebacker Pat Angerer recovered the onside kick to end any comeback hopes.
What the Colts said
"Everyone was embarrassed from our home loss on Sunday. We wanted to make amends for that showing." -- Coach Chuck Pagano, on the team's bounce-back from a 38-8 defeat against the St. Louis Rams.
What the Titans said
"We still have six games left to do something. A lot of it is out of our hands, but we've got to win." -- Cornerback Alterraun Verner.
What we learned about the Colts
1. This time, they overcame a slow start. Over the past three games, the Colts were outscored 66-9 in the first half. They won beat the Texans on Nov. 3 in Houston, never came close on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, and they were able to rally against the Tennessee Titans. However, the pattern must change if they are to make any kind of noise in the playoffs. Whatever coach Chuck Pagano is doing to get the team ready to play at the outset, it's not working.
2. Indianapolis' offense has a purpose on every play. Even when trailing by 14 points early, the Colts stayed within themselves, patiently running the ball and setting up play-action throws to gain a rhythm. Once they struck in the third quarter and gained a lead, they pounded away at the Titans with power runs and mixed in timely throws from quarterback Andrew Luck. The Colts' old-school offensive approach is something to enjoy when it works as it did in the second half.
What we learned about the Titans
1. The offense actually played one of its best games of the year. Tennessee averaged more than 5 yards per carry, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played about as well as he can, hitting on 22 of 28 throws for 222 yards and a touchdown. The only problem was the Titans had the ball so infrequently in the second half that they didn't get into the same rhythm they had early in the game.
2. Special teams continue to hurt the Titans. Devon Wylie fumbled a kickoff return in the third quarter after an Indianapolis touchdown, giving the ball right back to the Colts, who scored the go-ahead TD two plays later. Tennessee gave up a late score last month to the San Francisco 49ers on a fumbled punt return by Darius Reynaud, who was cut the next day, and the team has committed penalties in the kicking game all year. Those kinds of mistakes help explain why Tennessee is 4-6.