NASHVILLE — Coaches and quarterbacks change for the Indianapolis Colts, but their ability to beat rival Tennessee on its own turf does not.
Philip Rivers passed for 308 yards and a touchdown, running back Nyheim Hines scored twice and special teams got in on the act Thursday night as the Colts trounced the Titans 34-17 to grab the head-to-head edge atop the AFC South Division standings.
The Colts (6-3), who improved to 14-5 at Nissan Stadium, will host the rematch in Indianapolis on Nov. 29 after helping coach Frank Reich improve to 4-1 against Titans coach Mike Vrabel.
"We get a huge special teams touchdown, and then offensively, shoot, we were rolling pretty good all day," said Rivers, in his first year with the Colts after spending his first 16 NFL seasons with the Chargers. "We were very balanced, kind of got in a rhythm with the no-huddle (offense). This was a huge road division win."
Indianapolis, which came in with the NFL's best defense in terms of fewest yards allowed, smothered an offense that had averaged 29 points and 384.6 yards per game to rank seventh and 10th, respectively, in the league. On special teams, E.J. Speed blocked a punt and T.J. Carrie recovered the ball and returned it 6 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter.
The Colts outgained Tennessee 430-294 in total yards, though Titans running back Derrick Henry rushed for 103 yards, his fifth time this season eclipsing the century mark on the ground.
The Titans (6-3) lost for the third time in four games as they head into the toughest stretch of their season, with Indianapolis the first of four straight opponents currently with winning records.
Tennessee led 17-13 at halftime, but Indianapolis took advantage of the Titans' special teams woes to score twice in the third quarter for a 27-17 lead.
The Titans went with their third punter in three games, promoting former University of Tennessee player Trevor Daniel after signing him to the practice squad last weekend. Daniel's first punt went 17 yards, and Hines scored four plays later on a 2-yard touchdown run. The Titans gave Daniel no help on his second, with Speed easily breaking through for the block.
First-year Tennessee kicker Stephen Gostkowski, the league veteran who was a star for the New England Patriots, then missed a 44-yard field goal wide right early in the fourth.
"We're going to have to evaluate everything that we do," Vrabel said.
The Colts padded their lead to 34-17 with backup Jacoby Brissett — already on the list of Indianapolis quarterbacks who have beaten the Titans — capping the next drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 9:21 left.
"We finished the way we needed to finish," Reich said.
The final margin would have been larger, but Indianapolis settled for a 43-yard field goal at the end of the first half and the Titans forced a turnover on downs on the Colts' opening possession of the third quarter.
Rivers came in needing only 4 passing yards to move by Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino for fifth in NFL history. He passed the Miami Dolphins legend on the Colts' first play from scrimmage, an 11-yard connection with rookie Jonathan Taylor. Rivers now has 61,666 yards for his career, and he also made his 233rd consecutive start and is one away from tying former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning for the 10th-longest streak in league history.
The Colts often went without a huddle to put Rivers in control of the offense and take advantage of a struggling defense.
"He's just really good in that mode," Reich said. "Very accurate, good checks in the run game — he was really in it tonight."
Hines finished with 70 rushing yards on 12 carries, including a 2-yard touchdown, and added 45 receiving yards on five catches, including a 13-yard touchdown.
"I've never had a game like this on my birthday, so my 24th birthday is going to be one I'm always going to remember," Hines said. "I knew one thing: I didn't want to settle for average, I wanted to play great. "
Titans wide receiver Corey Davis played a day after his older brother, Titus, died at age 27 from a rare form of kidney cancer. Davis did not practice Wednesday, hours after his brother died. He was crying before kickoff, then finished with a team-high five catches for 67 yards.
"I'm proud of Corey and proud of his ability to come out here," Vrabel said. "Again, our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, and I'm proud of his teammates for supporting him the way that they did."
Davis' brother told their sister the receiver should play regardless, and Davis said he felt his brother with him in the game.
"Since I was a little kid, I was always chasing after him and trying to be like him," Davis said. "I wore his number every year to copy him. He thought it was annoying, but I looked up to him tremendously. That was my idol, my hero. I tried to honor him tonight."