By KEVIN WEAKS
NASHVILLE — Indianapolis had just two touchdowns — one to extend the game and the other to end it suddenly.
Deione Carter leaped over the goal line from a yard out with 3:28 to play in the fourth quarter, and then Vick Ballard jumped to the pylon for a 16-yard pass completion in overtime to rally the Colts to a 19-13 win over Tennessee Sunday afternoon at LP Field.
The Titans fall to 3-5, their win streak stopped at two games, while the Colts are now 4-3. Tennessee has now lost seven of its last eight games to Indianapolis.
Tennessee’s latest loss in the AFC South rivalry was certainly one that got away.
“It was disappointing,” Tennessee head coach Mike Munchak said. “I told the team it’s not one play. We didn’t make enough plays to win the game. You have to score more than 13 points to win. We had plenty of opportunities to do that. We had a chance to make plays and give ourselves a better cushion. We didn’t do that.
It began early for the Titans, too, as Tennessee methodically moved from its own 20 to the Colts’ 17 only to see a penalty and a sack move the ball back to the 31. Tennessee settled for a 39-yard field goal by Rob Bironas.
Offensive pass interference thwarted the next Titans’ drive, and then Tennessee overcame two more its next time up, one wiping off a 22-yard TD pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Kenny Britt. The Titans struck back two plays later on a 23-yard TD pass from Hasselbeck to Kendall Wright.
Ahead 10-3, The Titans would not score again until early in the fourth quarter, when Bironas connected on a 30-yard kick with 10:26 to play.
“The game should have been out of hand the way we played in the first half,” Indianapolis interim head coach Bruce Arians said.
The Colts spent most of the game frustrated on offense, failing to finish after putting together some successful drives.
Adam Vinatieri was called on for a 20-yard field goal on Indianapolis’ first drive after rookie quarterback Andrew Luck had moved the team to the Titans’ 2-yard-line. Vinatieri, who had a 37-yard kick blocked to end the first half, then booted a 44-yard field goal at 10:20 of the third period to get the Colts within 10-6.
While Luck kept his cool and managed the game well for the most part, the Titans held the NFL’s 15th-ranked offense (359 yards per game) for nearly four quarters. Luck finished 26-of-38 for 297 yards with an interception to go with his overtime TD toss and he was sacked twice for a loss of 11 yards. His longest pass went for 22 yards.
Led by Donald Brown with 80 yards on 14 carries and Ballard with 55 yards on 12 tries, Indy’s running game managed 171 yards.
Both came up big when it mattered, though, as Luck was 6-of-8 for 62 yards on the game-tying drive, and then Brown had six carries for 59 yards and Luck threw a 20-yard pass to Reggie Wayne on 3rd-and-8 on the game-winning drive in overtime.
“You realize it’s a long game, and if it’s the second half and something stalls, you still have one more opportunity left,” Luck said. “It’s still frustrating not to finish those drives off. I think I’m the main culprit.”
The culprit for Tennessee was not Luck, but simply bad luck.
Tennessee was unable to get a break all day from the officiating crew, the last one to go against the Titans with 18 seconds to play in regulation when Dwayne Allen appeared to have fumbled deep in Indy territory after catching a short pass over the middle only to instead be ruled down by contact.
Had Tennessee been allowed to keep the recovery, it could have set up a potential game-winning field goal.
“We win the game right there,” Munchak said. “Obviously, we get the ball right there. So, it’s a huge play at a huge time in the game. You wish the play had gone the other way where he let the play go, and then they can decide if he was down by contact or not. When you blow forward progress, you can’t review the play.”
Hasselbeck finished 22-of-29 for 236 yards, while Chris Johnson rushed for 99 yards on 21 carries.
Tennessee is back at home this week against Chicago, marking the return to Nashville for Vandy grad Jay Cutler.
Published in The Messenger 10.29.12