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Titan subs mail in meaninglesss finale

Titan subs mail in meaninglesss finale

Posted: Monday, December 29, 2008 5:48 pm
By: By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts’ high-powered offense receives all the accolades.
The defense does the dirty work.
It happened again Sunday when the Colts spent 23 minutes achieving a whole new set of milestones, and then relied on the defense to pitch its first shutout in more than a decade, beating AFC South champion Tennessee 23-0.
“It’s a real credit to our defense,” Peyton Manning said. “I throw against our defense in practice, and they’re hard to move the ball against, especially down in the red zone.”
The Titans (13-3) had the same problem, even though they never made it to the red zone. They managed only one first down in the first half and just 125 yards the entire game. Their only legitimate scoring chance ended when Rob Bironas pushed a 48-yard field goal attempt to the right in the third quarter.
Otherwise, it was a complete shutdown.
One reason, of course, was that Indy (12-4) did not get anything close to Tennessee’s best shot.
Coach Jeff Fisher opted to play cautiously after locking up the AFC’s top seed last week. He deactivated eight starters, including rookie running back Chris Johnson, and yanked quarterback Kerry Collins after just three plays. Fisher also installed a vanilla offense and defense, to prevent giving the Colts anything substantial to break down on film should the teams meet again in the playoffs.
But on a day Manning extended his NFL record for 4,000-yard seasons to nine, Marvin Harrison became the league’s No. 2 all-time receiver and Dallas Clark broke the franchise’s season record for yards receiving by a tight end, the defense added its own historic stamp.
By not allowing a touchdown, the Colts gave up only six TD passes all season, the fewest ever in a 16-game season. It was Indy’s first shutout since Dec. 14, 1997.
“I told the defense I was very proud of them,” coach Tony Dungy said. “Six touchdown passes all year — another NFL record. It was well deserved.”
Especially considering how the defense contributed to Indy’s remarkable second-half comeback.
After starting the season 3-4, the fifth-seeded Colts head into next week’s first-round playoff game at San Diego, the AFC West champion, with nine straight wins. Two of those were decided on defensive scores.
On Sunday, it was a more customary situation.
Manning was 7-of-7 for 95 yards with one touchdown and a perfect rating of 158.3, giving him nine seasons with at least 4,000 yards. Dan Marino is second all-time with six 4,000-yard seasons.
Clark broke the 42-year-old franchise record for yards receiving by a tight end, catching six passes for 59 yards. He finished with 848 yards, surpassing Hall-of-Famer John Mackey’s 829 in 1966.
Harrison caught seven passes for 31 yards, passing Cris Carter (1,101) for second all-time, and now has 1,102.
And Indy’s backups were nearly as effective.
Jim Sorgi, Manning’s replacement, finished 22-of-30 for 178 yards and gave his toddler son, who was attending his first game, something to remember. Sorgi led the Colts on four scoring drives and helped the Colts take control in the first half.
“It’s not like they were just sitting back,” Manning said. “They were blitzing, and so some of the proper reads were to throw the ball. Then, obviously, in the second half, we did a good job running the ball.”
Meanwhile, the Titans couldn’t even counterpunch.
Manning moved the Colts 90 yards on the opening possession, hooking up with Joseph Addai on a nifty 55-yard TD pass that made it 7-0 and sent both players to the bench.
Then the Titans nearly lost a fumble on their first play and Indy fans wanted intentional grounding called on the second. After punting, Tennessee didn’t touch the ball again for more than 13 minutes.
Instead, Adam Vinatieri connected on two short field goals to make it 13-0, and his third, a 38-yarder late in the first half, gave Indy a 16-0 lead. The defense sealed Tennessee’s fate, and it couldn’t have come soon enough for the Titans.
“Look, I’m not going to sit here and dwell on this game 10 days from now,” Fisher said. “We’re going to go home, rest up, get ready, continue to improve and get ready for the first round of the playoffs at home.”
Notes: Dungy was photographed with his family on the field at the end of the game. Dungy, who has said he would again ponder retirement after the season ends, cautioned not to read anything into it. … For the first time since 2003, the Colts had more punts in a season than touchdowns. … Bironas’ miss ended a stretch of 12 straight field goals, dating to Nov. 9. … Titans linebacker Josh Stamer hurt his groin. … Titans third-string quarterback Chris Simms played for the first time in 26 months in the fourth quarter and Collins’ backup, Vince Young, got his most extensive action since Collins took over as the starter in Week 2.

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