Colts star in this match game
Latest win ties Patriots’ record
INDIANAPOLIS - Peyton Manning keeps finding new winning formulas, and the Colts keep making history.
Instead of another patented comeback or impressive air show, Manning opened December by playing keepaway from Tennessee and leading the Colts to a 27-17 victory over Tennessee for their record-tying 21st consecutive regular-season win.
“You try to tell these guys that when you win a couple in a row, or three or four in a row, this is not normal,’’ said Manning, the three-time MVP. “It’s not normal to win 10 or 11 or 12 games every year. But these guys that have been here five years would tell me it is normal for us. That’s all they’ve done.’’
For Indy (12-0), the milestones all seem commonplace.
Yesterday’s list included:
■Matching the Patriots’ record, set from 2006-08, with a chance to break it next week at home against Denver.
■Extending their NFL record of consecutive 12-win seasons to seven.
■Remaining undefeated, the first time in league history two teams have been unbeaten this late in the season.
■Tying the 1990s 49ers for most wins in a decade (113).
“[The record] is one of those things we talk about. We kind of identify the milestones on Wednesday morning when we get in. We talk about some of the things we’re accomplishing,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said. “The guys appreciate it, but it’s not something that goes to their heads.’’
Colts players celebrated with a nonchalant stroll toward midfield, then shaking hands and trotting into the locker room as though it was no different than the previous 20 wins.
But the script was different. This time, Manning took a page out of Tennessee’s playbook, relying on an effective ground game and a ball-control offense to stymie the Titans’ comeback hopes.
Tennessee (5-7) was the last team to beat the Colts, on Oct. 27, 2008, and it wanted to bookend the streak.
While Chris Johnson ran for 100 yards for the seventh straight game, tying Earl Campbell’s franchise record, he finished with 113 yards and fell just short of a seventh straight 125-yard game.
Twice in the second half, the Titans went for it on fourth down deep in Colts territory, and failed both times. Tennessee also recovered an onside kick after scoring a late TD, then turned the ball over on downs.
“We just didn’t finish in the red zone,’’ quarterback Vince Young said. “Our guys made some big plays, but we just didn’t finish. Against a team like this, with an MVP quarterback, you have to score touchdowns.’’
The Colts, however, took another approach.
Joseph Addai ran 21 times for a season-high 79 yards and two touchdowns. Manning was 24 of 37 for 270 yards and one TD, Pierre Garcon caught six passes for a career-high 136 yards, and the combination of quick scores in the first half and Manning’s ability to run clock in the second sealed Tennessee’s fate.
Indy needed just 1:58 to take a 7-0 lead, on Addai’s 8-yard run. After Rob Bironas’s short field goal, Addai scored on a 1-yard run to make it 14-3.
And when Young was picked off, Manning hooked up with Austin Collie on a 4-yard TD pass to make it 21-3 with 1:55 left in the first half.
Young answered with a 6-yard TD pass to Kenny Britt, but left Manning 20 seconds.
Manning hooked up with Garcon for 18 yards on the first play and got 15 more when Titans defensive tackle Tony Brown drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Addai ran for 5 yards on the next play and Matt Stover made a 43-yard field goal to give Indy a 24-10 halftime lead.
The teams traded time-consuming drives in the third quarter and when Manning burned up nearly half of the fourth quarter with a drive that led to Stover’s 36-yard field goal with 3:14 to go, the Colts were back in the record book.
“It will mean a lot if we look back at it after 16 games,’’ linebacker Clint Session said. “Right now, it really means nothing to us. We’re just trying to win every game we play.’’