Colts continue playoff streak by beating Titans

Posted Jan. 02, 2011 @ 7:56 p.m.
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By Michael Marot, AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Peyton Manning has the Indianapolis Colts back in the playoffs.

The four-time league MVP broke two NFL records Sunday and set up Adam Vinatieri for a 43-yard field goal as time expired to give the Colts a 23-20 victory over Tennessee and their seventh AFC South title in eight years.

It's the ninth straight season Indy has reached the postseason, tying the NFL mark Dallas set from 1975-83.

And, as it turned out, the Colts (10-6) didn't even need to win to make the playoffs - thanks to the Jaguars' loss in Houston. But it did give Indy the No. 3 seed in the AFC and set up a Saturday night showdown with the New York Jets in a rematch of last year's conference title game.

This was perhaps the most improbable of Indy's playoff berths.

After losing to Dallas on Dec. 5, the Colts figured they had to win the last four to have any chance of defending their AFC crown. They did just that - barely.

Manning was 27 of 41 for 264 yards with two TDs, breaking the single-season record for completions (450) that Drew Brees set earlier in the day. He also started his 208th consecutive game, breaking Gene Upshaw's old record for most consecutive starts to open a career. And he threw his 398th and 399th career TD passes, leaving him one short of joining Brett Favre and Dan Marino as the only members of the 400 club.

But Manning saved his best work for the closing act.

After each team fumbled away an opportunity to win in the final two minutes, Manning took advantage of Indy's second chance by driving the Colts 37 yards in five plays. Vinatieri then added to his legacy as the NFL's best clutch kicker by making a 43-yarder as time expired.

By then, the Colts already knew they were in.

Houston's victory over Jacksonville assured Indy of another division crown, though that didn't diminish the postgame celebration.

And after a long, arduous season, the Colts wanted to take care of their playoff fate themselves.

Vinatieri was his usual clutch self, tying his season-long with a 48-yard field goal in the first quarter and hitting the 43-yarder to win it.

Vinatieri and Rob Bironas each made two field goals in the game's first 23 minutes, leaving the score tied 6-6.

That's when Manning and counterpart Kerry Collins went to work.

Manning took the Colts 78 yards in 10 plays, hitting Reggie Wayne on a bubble screen that Wayne took around the right side for a 7-yard TD catch to make it 13-6. It was Wayne's 69th career touchdown receiving and broke a tie for second in Colts franchise history with Hall of Famer Raymond Berry.

The Titans, playing possibly for the final time with Jeff Fisher as coach, rallied in the second half.

They forced a punt on the Colts' opening series, and when Collins hooked up with Kenny Britt for a 21-yard TD pass, it was 13-13. Collins also passed John Unitas for No. 11 on the career passing list Sunday.

Manning answered with a perfect 30-yard over-the-shoulder pass to Pierre Garcon to make it 20-13 with 9:16 left in the third quarter.

Collins countered with a screen pass to Chris Johnson, who avoided two defenders with a nifty move and jogged 15 yards for a TD to make it 20-20.

That was it until Vinatieri's winner.

Johnson, the defending rushing champ, carried 20 times for 39 yards.

Game stats

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