published Sunday, December 1st, 2013

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

Indianapolis Colts' Jerrell Freeman (50) celebrates after Indianapolis defeated the Tennessee Titans, 22-14 in their NFL game on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Colts' Jerrell Freeman (50) celebrates after Indianapolis defeated the Tennessee Titans, 22-14 in their NFL game on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, in Indianapolis.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

INDIANAPOLIS — Adam Vinatieri's reliable right foot put Indianapolis on the verge of another playoff appearance.

The best clutch kicker in NFL history tied his career high with five field goals, including a 49-yarder to give the Colts the lead for good late in the third quarter, and surprise starter Donald Brown scored on a 4-yard touchdown run with 1:56 left for a 22-14 victory over Tennessee on Sunday.

Indy (8-4) now has a three-game lead in the division race with four to play and owns the first tiebreaker thanks to a season sweep of the Titans (5-7). The Colts can wrap up their eighth division crown in 11 seasons with one more win, one more Titans loss or a tie by either team.

No, it hasn't been easy getting to this point and it wasn't again Sunday. But Vinatieri bailed out the Colts, also tying his career high for field goals in a half (four) and equaling Jason Elam's NFL record for 100-point seasons (16).

Without him, the Colts might be lamenting their first back-to-back losses since December 2011.

Instead, they were celebrating a renaissance of sorts. The league's oldest kicker also made field goals of 47, 48, 45 and 37 yards, and the Colts defense, which was so good early in the season, forced four turnovers on a day the offense struggled yet again.

Andrew Luck finished 17 of 32 for 200 yards with no TDs and one interception. Brown, who wrested the starting job from Trent Richardson, ran 14 times for 54 yards, and the Colts finished with only 264 yards in offense.

That's not how they want to go into the playoffs, but it was good enough on a day Ryan Fitzpatrick was 21 of 37 for 201 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions and lost a fumble. He also scored on a 1-yard TD plunge in the first half.

For the Titans, this was their last real chance to make it a race in the AFC South, and Fitzpatrick had them in the lead after he tossed an ugly 1-yard TD pass on fourth-and-goal to Chris Johnson. That made it 14-12 with 7:29 to go in the third quarter.

He had the Titans in scoring position again on their next series, until NFL sacks leader Robert Mathis broke free for a strip sack. Jerrell Freeman scooped up the loose ball and ran it back to the Titans 32. Four plays later, Vinatieri hit the 49-yarder to give Indy the lead for good.

Fitzpatrick was picked off two more times and Brown finally sealed it with his strong run up the middle.

Brown had outplayed Richardson over the past few weeks after the Colts traded a first-round pick to the Browns in September for Richardson.

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