NASHVILLE — The Indianapolis Colts keep digging themselves into early holes — and proving they know how to come back and win.
Donald Brown ran for two touchdowns, Andrew Luck added another and the Colts rallied yet again, this time beating the Tennessee Titans 30-27 on Thursday night.
The Colts (7-3) trailed 14-0 in the first quarter and have been outscored 35-0 in the first quarters in their past three games — two of them victories. They also have trailed in six games after the first quarter this season.
“At the end of the day winning is what matters,” Luck said. “We were fortunate in this game to survive our mistakes and have a chance to win. … But we know that’s got to be fixed.”
Adam Vinatieri kicked three field goals, including a 50-yarder, and Coby Fleener had a career-high eight catches for 107 yards to help the Colts bounce back quite nicely from a 38-8 home loss to St. Louis. They have yet to lose back-to-back games under coach Chuck Pagano and are 8-0 coming off a loss.
“Obviously, starting out like that is something we’re all too familiar with,” Fleener said. “That’s something we have to work and get corrected.”
The Colts are back in charge of the AFC South too, now having beaten all three divisional opponents on the road.
“We’re not worried about that yet,” Luck said. “We’re worried about this next game.”
The Titans (4-6) lost their second straight and fifth in six games, blowing the big lead. Chris Johnson ran for two touchdowns and 70 yards in the first quarter, but had only 16 yards after that.
“We’ve got to find that winning formula, whatever it is,” Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “We have to find a way to pull these games out at the end. It’s a tough locker room in there right now. That’s two in a row that kind of slipped away from us. Two big ones, two costly ones for us.”
Fitzpatrick drove the Titans 80 yards in four plays, capping the drive with a 19-yard TD pass to Delanie Walker with 1:54 left. But the Titans, just like they did in becoming the first team to lose to Jacksonville this season on Sunday, couldn’t execute an onside kick with the ball not even covering 10 yards before Colts linebacker Pat Angerer covered it up.
The Colts had the ball less than 6 minutes in the first quarter and wound up holding the ball more than 32:23. They also outgained the Titans 366-340 after Tennessee opened with a 148-4 edge in total offence with its quick start.
Indianapolis sealed the victory with an 11-play drive capped by Brown with an 11-yard TD with 3:01 left, and the Colts ran on 10 of the 11 plays for 60 yards. That was the Colts’ fourth drive of 11 plays or more, and Brown praised the maligned offensive line for a phenomenal job. So did Pagano, who said the linemen took it personally.
“They had a point to prove,” Pagano said.
Luck finished 23 of 36 for 232 yards passing.
The Titans came out with the start they only wish they had Sunday losing to Jacksonville 29-27. Fitzpatrick did not turn the ball over once replacing Jake Locker, who’s out the rest of the season with a Lisfrac injury to his right foot.
The Titans were up 17-6 at halftime and looked to be in control as the Colts had a mini-meltdown with three personal fouls including linebacker Erik Walden head-butting Delanie Walker after ripping the helmet off the Titans tight end.
The Colts won their fourth straight and for the ninth time in 10 games over their divisional rival with Vinatieri’s 30-yard field goal as the first half expired helping settle the Colts down. That was the first of 20 straight points as they dominated in the third quarter holding the ball for more than 11 minutes in taking a 23-17 lead.
They opened the third quarter with an 11-play drive where Luck completed all five of his passes for 42 yards, including two on third down. Brown capped the drive with a 7-yard TD.
Then Devon Wylie, signed to the roster Tuesday for an injured Damian Williams at returner, ran into teammate Craig Stevens and fumbled on the kickoff for Tennessee.
Daniel Herron recovered for the Colts at the Titans 20, and Luck scrambled for an 11-yard TD two plays later.
It was yet another special teams gaffe this season by the Titans.
“For whatever reason, we just can’t hold onto the football,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “Another seven-point play really.”
The Colts forced Tennessee three-and-out, and the Titans finally held in forcing Indianapolis to a field goal. Vinatieri kicked his third of the night, a 50-yarder that went just over the crossbar. That capped 17 unanswered points in the third quarter as Luck connected on his first eight passes and was 9 of 11 for 71 yards in the quarter.