INDIANAPOLIS – Of all the losses they've had to the Indianapolis Colts, this had to be one of the toughest for the Tennessee Titans.
Dan Orlovsky threw for one touchdown, Donald Brown ran 80 yards for another late in the game and the Colts won their first game of the season, 27-13. The loss has the Titans (7-7) on the brink of elimination from the playoff race.
"That really makes this game worse, to play a team that's oh-fer and we come out and lay an egg," Titans fullback Ahmard Hall said.
Had the Titans closed out the season with three wins, they likely would have reached the playoffs. Now they'll need to win their last two games — against Jacksonville and Houston — and probably will need help from other teams to get in.
"This is a tough one to take," Tennessee coach Mike Munchak said. "We felt we could come in here and play well. If you don't play well early in the game, you give a team life. They just played better than we did."
The Colts (1-13) held Titans' star running back Chris Johnson to 55 yards as they avoided becoming the second 0-16 team in league history.
"They didn't allow Chris to have a good game," Hall said. "They were hitting him in the backfield. That's on us."
The Colts also avoided becoming the first team in franchise history to go 0-14.
Colts players began celebrating after making a fourth-down stop with less than 2 minutes to go, and the fans still around cheered loudly as the Colts finally had their first win since Jan. 2 — also at home against Tennessee.
Tennessee made the types of mistakes the Colts had been making all season. Matt Hasselbeck was picked off twice before being pulled in favor of rookie Jake Locker. The Titans also lost a fumble and booted a kickoff out of bounds at their own 1.
The quarterback switch was ironic, considering the Colts' quarterback carousel since Peyton Manning's injury — Kerry Collins, then Curtis Painter, then Orlovsky, with several in-game benchings sprinkled in.
This time, the other team was forced to figure things out.
"We wanted to make something happen," Munchak said. "It wasn't his (Hasselbeck's) fault our running game wasn't working. That wasn't in the plan to pull him. He got us where we are."
Tennessee needed a stop after getting a 7-yard touchdown pass from Locker to Nate Washington with 3:43 remaining.
On Indy's first play after Locker's scoring toss, it looked as if the Titans had Brown stopped in the backfield. But when Brown reversed field, Orlovsky threw a block — actually, something like a basketball pick — that got Brown to the edge. Brown cut upfield and sprinted for the game-sealing score.
Tennessee led 6-3 at halftime, but Orlovsky hooked up with Reggie Wayne for an 18-yard TD early in the third quarter 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 a touchdown and a 17-6 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Marc Mariani tried to field the bouncing ball in the end zone, but instead booted it to just inside the Titans 1-yard line. Indy forced another punt, then got a 39-yard run from Brown to set up Adam Vinatieri's 40-yard field goal that made it 20-6 with 12:53 to play.
"We had our opportunities to set us up nice, and we didn't get the job done," Titans safety Chris Hope said. "You give a team an opportunity to stick around long enough, they're going to get you."
Notes: Colts running back Delone Carter left in the first half with an undisclosed forearm injury. He did not return. ... The Titans failed to sweep Indy for the first time since 2002 and are 0-4 at Lucas Oil Stadium. ... Locker was 11 of 16 for 108 yards with one TD after relieving Hasselbeck and Johnson had eight catches for 54 yards. ... Lacey has two career TDs in three NFL seasons.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap