Luck's TD throw in OT give Colts win

Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This is why the Indianapolis Colts drafted Andrew Luck with the top overall pick in April.
Stymied most of the day by the Tennessee Titans' normally pliable defense, Luck walked off the field Sunday when Vick Ballard took his screen pass 16 yards -- leaping high into the air to crack the goal line's plane with the ball -- with 10:11 left in overtime to finish off a 19-13 win.
It was the Colts' first road win since 2010 and it came on a play that interim coach Bruce Arians installed just this week in practice.
"I don't even know what college team I was watching, but three years ago I saw that play," he said. "We talked about putting that play in and we saw it, and I liked it. Then we run it to win the game."
Luck finished the day 26 of 38 with the touchdown and an interception for 297 yards, saving his best work for the team's late touchdown drives. He extended the winning march by zipping a 20-yard pass over the middle to Reggie Wayne on third-and-8 from the 36.
Two plays later, Ballard slipped out to the left, accepted Luck's pass and steamed down the sideline. The rookie running back got the ball inside the right pylon and the play survived a replay review.
"No doubt in my mind," left tackle Anthony Castonzo said when asked if Ballard had scored. "I had a good look at it. I was close to the play when it happened."
Indianapolis (4-3) forced overtime when backup running back Delone Carter leaped 1 yard with 3:24 remaining in regulation, capping a 14-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 7:02. Carter's 7-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the 8 kept the drive going, while Luck hit all six of his passes for 62 yards.
Tennessee (3-5) took a 10-3 lead into halftime when rookie wide receiver Kendall Wright made a balletic 23-yard touchdown reception a minute before intermission, gaining separation from Cassius Vaughn and then tapping one foot down while toe-dragging the second one inbounds.
Otherwise, most of the game was an exhibition of the teams constructing promising drives which concluded either in field goals or without points for one reason for another.
The Titans started out with a 13-play, 59-yard march which lasted 7:25, ending in Rob Bironas' 39-yard field goal -- the 200th of his career. Indianapolis answered with a 12-play, 83-yard drive that ate up 6:29, but had to settle for Adam Vinatieri's 20-yard field goal when Luck was tackled from behind at the 2 on a scramble to the end zone.
On their next drive, the Colts kept the ball for more than 5 minutes, but were forced to punt when Donnie Avery committed a crackback block after they reached the Tennessee 33. Indianapolis then maneuvered into field-goal range on its last drive of the half, but Michael Griffin ripped through a badly-executed protection scheme to block Vinatieri's 37-yard attempt.
In the third quarter, the Titans missed on a chance to add to a 10-6 lead when the normally-reliable Bironas missed wide right from 45 yards as the ball was caught in a swirling crosswind.
After the Colts' tying score, Tennessee reached their 41-yard line with two timeouts and 1:15 left. But Matt Hasselbeck missed an open Jared Cook on a deep slant, then fired a 3rd down pass for Kenny Britt off a defender.
Those plays rankled Hasselbeck, who was 22 of 29 for 236 yards in what was otherwise a solid performance.
"Definitely frustrating," he said. "We definitely let them hang around and when you reach the fourth quarter, anything can happen. I felt like the breaks were going against us today."
The Titans appeared to get the short end of a call late in regulation when Indianapolis rookie Dwayne Allen had the ball knocked loose following a 7-yard reception at the Colts' 28, with cornerback Alterraun Verner recovering. But the officials ruled Allen's forward progress was stopped before the fumble.
Regardless, Indianapolis deserves credit for consecutive 80-yard touchdown drives into an 18-mile per hour wind with the game on the line.
"You play the game to win," Arians said. "We were going to take the football from the giddy-up and take it down the field."
Notes: Tennessee LT Michael Roos (appendicitis) saw his 119-game starting streak come to an end when he was declared inactive. The Titans also lost RG Leroy Harris (knee) in the first quarter. ... Among the Indianapolis inactives were OLB Robert Mathis, its sack leader. ... The Titans were flagged for offensive pass interference three times in the first half, including one which nullified Britt's 22-yard touchdown catch.