Created on Friday, 15 November 2013 Written by TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts know they have to stop falling behind early.
It's just a hard habit to break when they keep rallying for victories.
The Colts trailed 14-0 before Andrew Luck and the offense scored 20 straight points and turned a 17-6 halftime deficit into a 30-27 win over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night.
"That's how we make our living," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "It caught up with us two games ago. We have got to try to make things a little easier on ourselves."
The Colts (7-3) have been outscored 35-0 in the first quarter in their past three games — two of them victories. They also have trailed in six games after the first quarter this season.
"There is no panic," Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. "We always talk about it's going to come down to the last 2 minutes of the game, and this year that is what it has been."
Indianapolis is in firm control of the AFC South having beaten all three division opponents on the road this season. The Colts have beaten the Titans four straight and nine of the last 10.
The Titans (4-6) know only too well about the final 2 minutes. They scored late for a second straight game and couldn't recover an onside kick. Now Tennessee has lost five of six, and the Titans will play four of their final six on the road.
"We knew the Colts were a good second-half team, and we didn't finish the game out," Titans defensive end Derrick Morgan said. "We are losing close games that we think that we should have won. We haven't been finishing games. We are who we are."
Here are five things to know about the Colts taking control of the AFC South against the Titans:
COLTS CAN RUN: The Colts have been struggling to protect Luck and open holes in the run game. Indianapolis had just 14 yards in last week's embarrassing 38-8 loss to St. Louis. But the Titans sacked Luck only once, and Donald Brown ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns, including the clincher with 3:01 left. The Colts ran 10 times on an 11-play drive before Brown scored his second TD.
"They had a point to prove," Pagano said.
AGELESS WONDER: Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri isn't slowing down with age. Vinatieri, who will turn 41 on Dec. 28, made all three of his field-goal attempts and improved to 20 of 23 this season. His field goals Thursday included a 48-yarder and a 50-yarder. He has made each of his last four attempts from at least 50 yards out, matching his career-best from that distance.
RECEIVING HELP: The Colts have been looking for someone other than T.Y. Hilton to help out Luck by catching passes since Reggie Wayne tore his ACL. Well, they found a few options against the Titans. Coby Fleener had a career-high eight catches for 107 yards with a long of 39, and Trent Richardson caught five passes for 31 yards. They still need more from their other receivers, who combined to catch only three passes, and Darrius Heyward-Bey didn't finish after hurting an ankle.
SPECIAL TEAMS GAFFE: The Titans are on their third kick returner this season in Devon Wylie. Darius Reynaud was cut last month after his latest mistake, and Damian Williams was sidelined by an injured hip. So Wylie, who hadn't returned a kick or punt this season, filled in. His first return of the third quarter popped out when he ran into the back of teammate Craig Stevens, and the Colts scored to take a lead they never surrendered.
"It's unfortunate," Wylie said. "It was very big."
FINISHING: The Titans have lost two straight games in the span of five days when they scored late but couldn't recover the onside kick. This time, Rob Bironas' kick didn't even cover the 10 yards necessary before the Titans could recover it without touching any of the Colts. The ball rolled right to Colts linebacker Pat Angerer.