Published December 09, 2012
| Sports Network
Indianapolis, IN – Adam Vinatieri kicked a pair of fourth- quarter field goals to lift the Indianapolis Colts to a 27-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts (9-4) rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit for their third straight victory to improve their playoff chances. Indianapolis has won seven of its last eight and is still within striking distance of first-place Houston in the AFC South. The 11-1 Texans play at New England on Monday night and face Indianapolis twice in the final three weeks of the season.
Andrew Luck had a subpar day, but still came away with a win. The rookie completed just 16-of-34 passes for 196 yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions for the Colts, who have won five straight at home and improved to 6-1 at Lucas Oil Stadium this season.
Vick Ballard ran for 94 yards on 19 carries in the victory, while Reggie Wayne caught six passes for 64 yards with a touchdown and moved into 10th place on the all-time receptions list.
Jake Locker threw for 262 yards on 22-of-35 passing with a touchdown and a pair of costly second-half interceptions in defeat. Tennessee (4-9) has dropped three in a row since its bye week and fell to 0-5 within the division.
Vinatieri drilled a 53-yard field goal to give Indianapolis a 24-23 lead with 6:23 remaining and Locker was picked off by Darius Butler less than a minute later to set up Vinatieri's 40-yard kick for a four-point game.
The Titans were forced to punt it away with less than three minutes to play and three timeouts, but never saw the ball again as the Colts picked up two first downs to seal it.
Luck was dismal in the first half. He threw a pair of interceptions -- one that was returned for a touchdown -- and the Colts went to the break down 20-7.
But they used a strong first offensive series, solid special teams and a big play on defense for two scores in the third quarter to move in front.
Luck directed an 80-yard touchdown drive to start the second half. He twice found Wayne to convert long third downs and Delone Carter scored from a yard away on another third down to finish the 14-play set.
"He's resilient," Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said. "He doesn't let one play dictate what's going to happen on the next play. He's go tremendous resolve. He looks at the pictures and he's ready to go."
A Ken McAfee punt pinned Tennessee at its own one midway through the third and Locker tried a quick throw on the first play, but Cassius Vaughn stepped in front of the intended receiver at the three and waltzed into the end zone to give Indianapolis a 21-20 lead.
Tennessee responded with a 16-play drive that chewed up more than 10 minutes, but had to settle for Rob Bironas' third field goal of the day -- a 25-yard kick that made it 23-21 with 10:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Titans took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards on nine plays for a touchdown. Locker keyed it early with a 32-yard scramble and finished it with an 18-yard scoring strike to Jared Cook.
Bironas missed a 57-yard field goal try on Tennessee's next possession and the short field helped the Colts tie it. Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for 36 yards on the second play and connected with Ballard out of the backfield for 10 to convert 3rd-and-4 before finding Wayne in the back of the end zone from four yards away.
The Titans answered with a 40-yard field goal from Bironas to move back in front early in the second quarter. A 46-yard pass from Locker to Kenny Britt on 3rd-and-8 set up the kick.
Luck then gave Tennessee its second touchdown with an ill-advised throw. As the rookie was being dragged down for a sack, he flung a pass that hit Titans defensive lineman Will Witherspoon in the gut just five yards away. Witherspoon managed to hold on to the ball, then rumbled to the end zone for a 40-yard return and a 17-7 lead with 4:40 left in the first half.
The play was reviewed and replays appeared to show that Luck's knee had touched the turf before he released the ball, but the call on the field stood.
A 31-yard Bironas field goal in the final minute send Tennessee to the break with a 20-7 advantage.
"It's another disappointing loss," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "We played a good, solid first half in a lot of ways, but let them get back in the game in the second half."
Luck eclipsed Peyton Manning's team rookie mark of 3,739 yards passing, set in 1998 ... Wayne surpassed Andre Reed (951) for 10th on the NFL's all-time receptions list ... Witherspoon has three career interception returns for touchdowns ... Britt caught eight passes for 143 yards, notching his seventh career 100-yard receiving game and first of 2012 ... Titans running back Chris Johnson had just 44 yards on 19 carries, but reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the fifth time in as many NFL seasons. He became the eighth player to accomplish the feat, joining Barry Sanders, Corey Dillon, Curtis Martin, Eddie George, Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Tony Dorsett ... Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, after completing a third round of chemotherapy for leukemia earlier this week, was in the building.