It's not worth trying to play armchair psychiatrist with the Indianapolis Colts past this: They're tough and resilient. How much that's worth — and how much it can cover up their flaws — in December in January is yet to be determined.
But for now, following a 30-27 victory over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on Thursday, the Colts will take it. Especially the way this one started.
The Colts fell behind 14-3 after yet another sluggish start — that’s three games in a row now they’ve been ice cold early — and it became 17-6 at the half. The Titans bit the Colts’ defense time and time again with a steady diet of crossing-pattern passes and Chris Johnson runs. Johnson scored two touchdowns, from 30 (his longest run in 180 carries) and seven yards, matching his season scoring total.
The Titans seemed to be in the Colts’ heads at that point. On the Titans’ field-goal drive, the Colts committed three major penalties on defense — and were lucky to have not lost a player to expulsion. Linebacker Erik Walden ripped off the helmet of Titans tight end Delanie Walker and headbutted the helmet-less player, something the referees did not catch. It appeared the Colts had lost their focus.
But then things flipped. The Colts opened the third quarter with an 11-play, 76-yard touchdown drive capped on a Donald Brown run, and then, following a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Andre Luck scored on a TD scramble two plays later.
The Titans’ defense looked gassed for much of the second half, unable to get quick stops and forced to be on the field for a stretch of 32 out of 35 plays at one point. But part of that was to blame on offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, who got away from the first-half gameplan for the first part of the second half.
A few more hammer-blow Colts drives made it 30-20 Indy when Brown capped off his big night with an 11-yard TD run. The Titans countered with a quick Ryan Fitzpatrick-to-Walker touchdown pass, but they couldn't recover the onsides kick and the game ended.
The Colts have to feel lucky. In a game in which there was chippy play and bad refereeing, they were fortunate to come out with a win, one that puts them in the driver's seat in the AFC South. Luck was great again in the second half, making Coby Fleener (eight receptions, career-high 107 yards) his go-to guy, but the Colts are expecting Luck to be great every time out.
The Titans' loss puts them at 4-6 and very much on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned.