Colts 22, Titans 14

Adam Vinatieri, Indy kick it up a notch

At 40, Adam Vinatieri is the NFL’s oldest player, but it didn’t stop him from booting five field goals Sunday.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
At 40, Adam Vinatieri is the NFL’s oldest player, but it didn’t stop him from booting five field goals Sunday.

INDIANAPOLIS — Adam Vinatieri still has it. Donald Brown does, too.

When both delivered throwback performances Sunday, it lifted the Indianapolis Colts closer to the playoffs.

Vinatieri, the oldest player in the league at 40, tied a career high with five field goals, four from 45 yards or longer. Brown, the Colts’ forgotten 2009 first-round pick, scored on a 4-yard TD run with 1:56 left to give Indianapolis a 22-14 victory over Tennessee.


‘‘Those are by no means chip shots,’’ Andrew Luck said after another troubling offensive showing with only 264 total yards. ‘‘To have a guy like that [Vinatieri], it really makes a difference.’’

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Indy (8-4) has a three-game lead over the Titans (5-7) with four left and a sweep of the season series. The Colts can wrap up their eighth AFC South title in 11 seasons with one more win, one more Titans loss, or a tie by either team.

It hasn’t been easy reaching this point, especially after losing five offensive starters with season-ending injuries, and with Trent Richardson struggling.

So coach Chuck Pagano shook up things after two blowout losses in the last three weeks.

He surprised many by moving Brown into the starting lineup ahead of Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012 by Cleveland who Indy traded for in September.


Pagano replaced Mike McGlynn at right guard with Jeff Linkenbach and also started cornerback Darius Butler ahead of Cassius Vaughn.

Vaughn picked off two of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s passes, and Brown continued to beat up on the Titans despite rushing for only 8 yards in the first 52 minutes. He had 46 yards on the final drive and gave Indy its only touchdown.

‘‘I guess it was time to put something together and with the division hanging in the balance, the guys manned up,’’ Pagano said, explaining that Brown earned a rare start and the two backs would both continue rotate.

‘‘Just like the first game down there, we were able to run the ball, chew up the clock.’’

They needed Vinatieri even more than Brown.


The soon-to-be 41-year-old resembled his much younger self, tying a career high with four field goals in the first half and matching his full-game career high when he hit a perfect 49-yarder for a 15-14 lead late in the third quarter.

To Vinatieri, it was just another work day.

‘‘You never know how it’s going to go, and you don’t know how you’re going to be needed and used,’’ he said. ‘‘Today was one of those days that I was needed and used a bunch.’’

Without him, the Colts might be lamenting their first back-to-back losses since December 2011.

Luck was 17 of 32 for 200 yards with no TDs and one interception.

Fitzpatrick wasn’t much better.

Though he scored on a 1-yard plunge in the first half and gave the Titans a 14-12 lead in the third quarter on an ugly 1-yard TD pass to Chris Johnson, Fitzpatrick was 21 of 37 for 201 yards. Johnson managed only 69 yards on 18 carries.

‘‘I didn’t play well. We had a shot at the end there,’’ Fitzpatrick said. ‘‘I didn’t get the job done, and it hurts. For me to come out and not play well hurts.’’