Intro: Indianapolis responded to a 30-point loss five days earlier with a solid road win at Tennessee, 30-27. The game meant separation or a much tighter divisional race as the season reaches six remaining games. Wiping out two 14-point deficits, the Colts showed a number of big things in the win.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are 7-3 and own a three-game AFC South lead with six games to play.
Just as important is the team battled back from its worst outing – a 38-8 home loss to St. Louis five days earlier – with a spirited performance in Tennessee.
The 30-27 win came with two rebounds from 14-point deficits, and it came with a dominant offensive performance and with good defensive play, plus three Adam Vinatieri field goals.
Here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
PERFORM AWAY FROM HOME – The Colts were 4-4 on the road last year, and it started with beating Tennessee after two lopsided losses away from Lucas Oil Stadium. Since winning in Nashville in 2012, the Colts have gone 8-3 on the road. It is one of the NFL’s better marks, and a team needs a strong road identity. Indianapolis earned consecutive 20-plus-point road wins at San Francisco and Jacksonville earlier this year, the first time since 2009 the team had accomplished that feat. This year’s 4-1 road record includes AFC South wins at Tennessee and Houston. Nice.
30, THREE AND ZERO – The Colts have been unbeatable in games with 30 rushes, three rushing scores and no turnovers. Since Pagano’s arrival, the Colts are 11-0 when they have attempted 30 rushes in a game, including 4-0 this year. A ground identity was sought by Pagano and his staff entering 2013. After a lull, it was in full force in Nashville. The Colts ran for three scores in a second game this season (also at San Francisco), and Indianapolis has won 24 straight times when doing so. Also, the Colts had their fourth turnover-free game of the season, beating Oakland, the 49ers and Houston in addition to Tennessee. Since 1998, only in 2004 (five), 2008 (six) and 2010 (five) have the Colts had more in one season than four times. Each season it did so, a playoff berth accompanied.
EXTENDING DRIVES – A week after Indianapolis had its worst offensive showing of the season with five turnovers and four empty trips to the red zone, it bounced back in grand fashion. A huge accomplishment in the 30-27 win was having four drives with more than 10 snaps from scrimmage. After being among the league leaders in 10-plus-play drives earlier this year, the number was waning recently with inability to convert third downs. The Colts had 13-, 12-, 11- and 11-play drives against the Titans that produced 20-of-30 points. (Another nine-play drive ended with a field goal.) Each of those four double-digit play drives at least four first downs. Well done, mates.
DIVISION RESURGENCE – Of the 20 coaches on staff, only Richard Howell was here through the dominant AFC South years when the Colts took the crown on seven occasions (2003-07, 09-10). Only New England (nine) has more division titles since 2002 than the Colts. Colts coaches spoke leading into the season about returning the crown to Indianapolis. It is a football quest. The Colts are 3-0 in the AFC South, having bested each foe in its home. December offers rematches in Lucas Oil Stadium. This is the sixth time the Colts have opened 3-0 in the division (2003, 2005-07, 2009), only the second time (2007) they have done it by opening at each opponent’s site.
REGAIN POISE – The Colts entered Thursday’s game as the least penalized team in the league in both yards and infractions. A messy second-quarter defensive possession with penalties for rough play helped Tennessee re-establish a 14-point advantage. Some teams could have lost composure and ended the evening in a tough manner. The Colts righted themselves competitively and returned to form. Indianapolis survived a tough moment by out-scoring Tennessee afterward, 27-10. Sometimes in-game instances do not go as planned. Teams with character quickly return to form.
Tags: Adam Vinatieri, chuck pagano, indianapolis colts, lucas oil stadium, Richard Howell
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