Published December 18, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts finally won without Peyton Manning. It just took 14 games and three quarterbacks to get there.
Dan Orlovsky threw one touchdown pass, a key block on an 80-yard TD run and the Colts defense held Chris Johnson to 55 yards rushing, to beat Tennessee 27-13 and avoid becoming the second 0-16 team in league history.
Indy's players threw their arms in the air after making a fourth-down stop with less than 2 minutes to go, and the fans still around cheered loudly as the Colts (1-13) ended a 14-game losing streak.
For the first time in 10 career starts, Orlovsky finished the game with the traditional kneel down, and the Colts also avoided becoming the first team in franchise history to go 0-14.
The Colts' previous win had come Jan. 2 of last season, also at home against Tennessee.
For the Titans (7-7), the loss was a devastating blow to their playoff hopes.
Had the Titans closed out the season with three wins, they likely would have reached the postseason. Now they'll need to win their last two games and probably need help from other teams just to get in.
Tennessee had nobody to blame but itself for this stumble. Matt Hasselbeck was picked off twice before being pulled in favor of rookie Jake Locker. Johnson ran 15 times for 55 yards.
The Titans also lost a fumble and booted a kickoff out of bounds at their own 1. And even after Locker threw a 7-yard TD pass to Nate Washington with less than 4 minutes to go, they couldn't wrap up the Colts.
Orlovsky went 11 of 17 for 82 yards.
On the first play after Locker's TD pass, it looked as if the Titans had Donald Brown corralled in the backfield. But when Brown reversed field, Orlovsky threw a block that got Brown to the edge and Brown sprinted 80 yards for the game-sealing score. Brown finished with 16 carries for 161 yards.
Sunday's game had a totally different complexion from the first 13.
Indy spent the past nine weeks just trying to get a lead. After more than 500 minutes, the Colts finally did — courtesy of Adam Vinatieri's 47-yard field goal.
Tennessee answered with two Rob Bironas field goals with the second giving Tennessee a 6-3 halftime lead.
It didn't last long.
After forcing a Tennessee punt to start the second half, Tommie Campbell's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave Indy the ball at the Titans 43. Seven plays later, Orlovsky hooked up with Reggie Wayne for an 18-yard TD that gave Indy a 10-6 lead.
Indy knew it would take more to get a win.
Jacob Lacey, the oft-criticized cornerback, returned an interception 32 yards for the score and a 17-6 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Marc Mariani tried to field the bouncing ball in the end zone, and kicked it out of the end zone inside the Titans 1-yard line. Indy forced another punt, then got a 39-yard run from Brown to set up Vinatieri's 40-yard field goal that made it 20-6 with 12:53 to play.