Colts grab AFC South tiebreaker by beating Titans 34-17
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Coaches and quarterbacks change for the Indianapolis Colts. What remains the same is they keep beating Tennessee in its own building.
Philip Rivers threw for 308 yards and a touchdown, and Nyheim Hines scored twice as the Colts trounced the Titans 34-17 Thursday night to grab the head-to-head edge atop the AFC South.
The Colts (6-3) will host the rematch in Indianapolis on Nov. 29 after helping coach Frank Reich improve to 4-1 against Titans coach Mike Vrabel. Indianapolis is 14-5 at Nissan Stadium.
“We get a huge special teams touchdown and then offensively, shoot, we were rolling pretty good all day,” said Rivers, in his first season with the Colts after spending 16 with the Chargers. “We were very balanced, kind of got in a rhythm with the no-huddle. This was a huge road division win.”
Indianapolis came in with the NFL’s best defense in terms of fewest yards allowed. The Colts smothered a Tennessee offense that had been averaging 384.6 yards per game, 10th-best in the league, and ranked seventh averaging 29 points. E.J. Speed also blocked a punt that T.J. Carrie returned 6 yards for a TD late in the third quarter.
The Colts outgained Tennessee 430-294, though Derrick Henry ran for 103 yards.
The Titans (6-3) lost for the third time in four games as they head into the toughest stretch of their season, with Indianapolis the first of four straight opponents currently with winning records.
Tennessee led 17-13 at halftime. Indianapolis took advantage of the Titans’ special teams woes to score twice in the third quarter for a 27-17 lead.
The Titans went with a third different punter in three games, promoting Trevor Daniel after signing him to the practice squad last weekend. Daniel’s first punt went 17 yards, and Hines scored four plays later on a 2-yard TD run. The Titans gave Daniel no help on his second, with Speed easily breaking through for the block.
Stephen Gostkowski then missed a 44-yard field goal wide right early in the fourth.
“We’re going to have to evaluate everything that we do,” Vrabel said.
The Colts padded their lead to 34-17 with backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett capping the next drive with a 2-yard TD run with 9:21 left.
“We finished the way we needed to finish,” Reich said.
Indianapolis’ final margin would’ve been larger, but the Colts settled for a 43-yard field goal at the end of the first half and the Titans forced a turnover on downs on Indianapolis’ opening drive of the third.
RIVERS PASSES MARINO
Rivers came in needing only 4 yards passing to move by Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the fifth-most in NFL history. He passed Marino on the Colts’ first play from scrimmage with an 11-yard pass to rookie Jonathan Taylor. Rivers now has 61,666 yards for his career. He also made his 233rd consecutive start and is one away from tying Eli Manning for the 10th-longest streak in league history.
The Colts used a lot of no-huddle to put Rivers in control of the offense and take advantage of a struggling Titans defense.
“He’s just really good in that mode,” Reich said. “Very accurate, good checks in the run game, he was really in it tonight.”
Hines finished with 12 carries for 70 yards and a TD, and caught five passes for 45 more yards and another TD. He called this his best birthday ever.
“I’ve never had a game like this on my birthday, so my 24th birthday is going to be one I’m always going to remember,” Hines said. “I knew one thing: I didn’t want to settle for average, I wanted to play great. ”
Titans wide receiver Corey Davis played a day after his older brother, Titus, died at age 27 from a rare form of kidney cancer. Davis did not practice Wednesday hours after his brother died. He was crying before kickoff, then finished with a team-high five catches for 67 yards.
Davis’ brother told their sister the receiver should play regardless, and Davis said he felt his brother with him in the game.
“Since I was a little kid, I was always chasing after him and trying to be like him,” Davis said. “I wore his number every year to copy him. He thought it was annoying, but I looked up to him tremendously. That was my idol, my hero. I tried to honor him tonight.”
Colts cornerback Xavier Rhodes went down on the second play from scrimmage. He walked off on his own and was back before the first quarter ended. Reich said cornerback Kenny Moore II will have an MRI on his ribs Friday.
Tennessee center Ben Jones hurt a knee but returned. Titans left guard Rodger Saffold limped to the sideline late in the second quarter with an injured ankle, but he also returned. Defensive lineman Larrell Murchison hurt his back.
Colts host Green Bay on Nov. 22.
Titans visit Baltimore on Nov. 22.
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