Manning, Colts back on track
Postseason push begins; Titans fall
NASHVILLE — So much for the worst slump of Peyton Manning’s career.
“Hopefully we can sort of build off this win,’’ Manning said. “Nobody likes losing three in a row.’’
The four-time NFL MVP put his atypical struggles behind him with a crisp performance against a defense that hasn’t intercepted a pass in 14 straight quarters. He completed 25 of 35 passes in his 63d 300-yard game, tying Dan Marino for tops on the career list.
Manning nearly had a third touchdown pass but rookie receiver Blair White broke up a pass intended for Reggie Wayne in the end zone.
“I was throwing to Reggie. I can assure you I was throwing to Reggie,’’ Manning said.
The Colts (7-6) haven’t lost four straight since 2001 when their five-game slide prompted Jim Mora’s famous rant about the playoffs. Now the only NFL team to reach the playoffs in 10 of the last 11 seasons is back on track and will defend its AFC South title if it wins out.
“I think we’re in a four-game playoffs and this was a playoff game tonight,’’ Manning said.
Tennessee (5-8) has lost six straight to drop 2 1/2 games behind Jacksonville (7-5) in the division with three to play. The Titans can blame themselves for mistakes that led to each of the Colts’ first three touchdowns, including two defensive penalties on third and goal and a snap over the punter’s head.
The Titans did break out of their scoring slump, ending a 14-quarter drought without an offensive touchdown when Chris Johnson finished a 55-yard drive with a 1-yard run with 49 seconds left in the first half.
Tennessee closed to 27-21 when Kerry Collins tossed his second TD pass, a 4-yarder to Bo Scaife with 7:59 left. The defense forced the Colts to go three and out, and the momentum seemed to swing to the Titans. But Tennessee went three and out, and the fans booed when coach Jeff Fisher decided to punt on fourth and 1. Manning made the Titans pay with a short pass to Pierre Garcon, and he shook off Jason McCourty and Chris Hope while safety Michael Griffin whiffed as the receiver slipped up the right sideline for a 43-yard play. Adam Vinatieri ended the drive with his third field goal, a 47-yarder that made it 30-21 with 2:55 left.
Injury-riddled Indianapolis finished the game with just five healthy offensive linemen, making the win even more precious.
“It’s tough to do in this league,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said. “It feels good, particularly [because] our guys had to fight through some injuries.’’