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Colts mount yet another ferocious comeback to sweep their division rivals, the Titans.
Colts win 27-23 to move to 9-4 and are steamrollin’ towards a potentially insanely improbably playoff berth!
Colts looked sloppy early, and a big reason why was the play of the offensive line. For reasons that defy logic, the Colts opted to start Seth Olsen at left guard for the injured Joe Reitz, who was out this week. The result: Andrew Luck was hit early, often, and HARD!
The Titans jumped out to a 7-0 lead thanks in large part to Jake Locker going 6-6 on his opening drive, including an 18-yard TD pass to Jared Cook. However, the Colts answered back, with a 4 yard TD from Andrew Luck to Reggie Wayne.
Interesting note on that TD, on the previous play, 1st and goal from the one, the Colts ran from a power set and lost three yards. On second down and four, Luck play-faked, and the Titans linebackers bit hard. REALLY HARD. Wayne was wide open on the slant route for the score. Great play fake by Luck.
After that score, the Colts didn’t make things any easier for themselves. With 4:47 left in the second quarter, Luck threw an awful interception while falling down to Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon. Witherspoon returned it 40 yards for a TD. After reviewing the play with replay, it was pretty clear that Luck’s knees were down when he threw the ball, meaning he was down by contact before the pick. However, for reasons that mystify, the refs upheld the pick six, and the Colts went into halftime trailing 20-7.
Game over, right?
The Colts outscored the Titans 20-3 in the second half. Interim head coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians mixed in several draw plays in first drive coming out of halftime, which eventually resulted in one yard TD run by Delone Carter. The draws helped take some of the rush pressure off Luck, and they kept the Titans defense off balance.
However, the biggest play of the game was a huge interception by Cassius Vaughn in the third quarter that was returned for a touchdown. If you see the play, Titans QB Jake Locker, who had played well up until that throw, waited a bit too long to deliver the ball. Vaughn sat on the route, jumped it, and walked into the endzone. Touchdown. The play not that much different from Darius Butler’s pick six against the Jaguars in Week 10.
Speaking of Butler, he also had a big INT in this game, picking off Locker at the Titans 35 yard line with 5:38 left in the fourth. Locker was pressured and rolled to his right, but Butler was covering Nate Washington well and stepped into front of the pass. Washington looked as if he was expecting the throw towards the sideline. The throw was inside, and Butler capitalized. Butler watched the ball all the way, not the receiver. Nice move on his part. The turnover eventually resulted in a Adam Vintatieri FG from 40 yards out. He also had another one from 53.
Clearly, the old man has no leg. Clearly.
Colts closed out the game with 2:42 left after two huge runs by Vick Ballard. One for 13 yards on 2nd and 9, and one for 11 yards on 2nd and 10. Both forced the Titans to take timeouts. Ballgame. Colts win.
With the win and with both the Steelers and Bengals losing, the Colts continue to separate themselves from the playoff pack. They are up two games with three to go. Also, after a 2-14 season in 2011, the Colts are guaranteed a winning season in 2012.
The game was Luck’s sixth game-winning comeback drive in the 4th quarter, and that is a rookie record. The previous record was 5 held by Ben Roethlisberger in 2005. Luck is also the first quarterback taken No. 1 overall to lead his team to a winning record his rookie year.
Craziness. Wonderful, glorious craziness.