NASHVILLE – This game doesn’t matter. Depends who you talk to.
In reality that is true. The Colts were locked into the fourth seed in the AFC Playoffs win, lose or draw in their regular season finale with the Titans in Nashville. If anything the game between the Bengals and the Steelers later Sunday night in Pittsburgh had more bearing on their postseason future.
But after getting stomped in Dallas a week ago the team was looking for a decisive performance against a 2-13 Tennessee team that has had a year of epic struggles in 2014. Confidence, not result, was the most important thing as Chuck Pagano’s team heads for its third consecutive playoff appearance.
For the most part the Colts made their fans feel good as they were in control for 60 minutes in a 27-10 win over the Titans at LP Field on Sunday afternoon. Thanks to the Steelers’ win over the Bengals, the Colts will face Cincinnati in their AFC Wild Card playoff game Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium at 1:05 P.M.
“I’m extremely proud of the guys, extremely proud of their effort, what they’ve accomplished in a three-year period, three 11-win seasons, playoffs three years in a row, all that stuff,” said Pagano of the win, which gives him three straight 11 win seasons with the team. “We knew we were already in, but I’m really proud of the players and coaches in that locker room and the guys that have sacrificed a lot to get us to this point.
“Great effort today, gritty win, all of that stuff, proud of the guys, proud of the effort, there’s some guys that stepped up and made some good plays and things like that.”
Andrew Luck set a new Colts’ single-season passing yardage record on the day throwing for 160 yards to bring his year totals to 4,761. That breaks Peyton Manning’s record of 4,700 yards in 2010.
“Win most importantly,” said Luck when asked what he took the most out of the victory. “That was our goal. It was a good win and I thought we did some good stuff offensively. Obviously, it wasn’t perfect. It’s always tough to get a win on the road but we did some decent things.”
If fans were hoping for a quick blowout, the first quarter didn’t exactly produce that. Each team traded possessions without much action until the Colts got a drive going in the final minutes. It almost didn’t happen as Luck fumbled after a DaQuan Jones hit but Hugh Thornton was there for the recovery.
Luck would lead the Colts to points a few plays later completing the drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Coby Fleener to make it 7-0.
In the second quarter Luck made some Colts history as he found Reggie Wayne for an 80-yard pass to set a new franchise single-season yardage record. Wayne fell two yards short of a touchdown and actually left the game with a groin injury following the play.
“It was a great catch, it was awesome,” said Luck of Wayne on the record-breaking play. “He contorted his body between two guys and then to keep his feet in bounds and keep on running, he is remarkable. For him to preform like that, it’s special.”
No problem for the Colts offense and Luck who finished the drive with a short scoring pass to Jack Doyle to make it 14-0.
Tennessee’s offense made their first major noise of the game following that drive as the Titans marched down the field and scored on a Charlie Whitehurst 7-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Wright to make it 14-7.
Josh Cribbs almost got it back on the ensuing kickoff when he ran it back 76-yards down to the Tennessee 27-yard line. The drive stalled inside the ten-yard line but Adam Vinatieri hit his 35th-straight field goal to make it 17-7.
That streak would come to an end in the third quarter when he missed a 46-yard field goal. The Titans added one of their own from Ryan Succop to cut the Colts lead to seven.
Vinatieri got his chance for redemption on the first play of the fourth quarter as he knocked down a 26-yard field goal to put the lead back to ten points. Matt Hasselbeck, who replaced Luck in the second half, put the game away with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Fleener to make it 27-10 and send the Colts off to the playoffs feeling a little bit better about themselves.