AFC South wrap: Colts beat Titans, Jags rally for win vs. Browns

AFC South wrap: Colts beat Titans, Jags rally for win vs. Browns
December 1, 2013, 4:00 pm
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Dec 1, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; A group of Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans look up after a Adam Vinatieri field goal goes through the uprights during first half action at Lucas Oil Stadium.

(Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports)

Vinatieri's 5 FGs lead Colts past Titans 22-14

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 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, well, it really makes a difference."

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. His fifth field goal also equaled Jason Elam's NFL record with a 16th 100-point season, and he joined Morten Andersen as the only players to score 800 points with two teams.

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 just 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 with one TD. 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."

The miscues proved costly.

Tennessee gave away three points just before halftime when Moise Fokou's personal foul extended the half by one play. Vinatieri cashed in with a 37-yarder.

Then, after taking the 14-12 lead, Fitzpatrick had the Titans in scoring position again until NFL sacks leader Robert Mathis stripped him of the ball. Jerrell Freeman scooped it up and ran it to the Titans 32. Four plays later, Vinatieri hit the 49-yarder to give Indy the lead for good.

"It puts us in a spot now where we've got to win four games in a row," coach Mike Munchak said. "We have no control of what that may or may not mean."

Fitzpatrick was picked off two more times before Brown sealed it with his strong run up the middle.

"Pros grind it out," Brown said. "They take it one week at a time and just keep rolling along."

NOTES: The Titans lost two more tight ends Sunday. Delanie Walker left with a concussion in the first quarter and Collin Mooney was taken by golf cart into the locker room with what appeared to be a left leg injury in the second half. ... Indy defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (sprained foot) and running back Daniel "Boom" Herron (strained pectoral) should have MRIs on Sunday night, Pagano said. ... Kicker Rob Bironas joined Al Del Greco as the only Titans in the NFL's 1,000-point club.

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Short's TD catch gives Jaguars 32-28 win

CLEVELAND -- Cecil Shorts came home and broke some hearts.

A Cleveland kid who grew up rooting for the Browns, Shorts caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne with 40 seconds left, rallying the Jacksonville Jaguars to a 32-28 win on Sunday.

On third-and-9, Henne lofted a perfect pass to the left corner for Shorts, who had beaten cornerback Joe Haden. Shorts got both feet down in the end zone before tumbling out of bounds.

It was a dream moment for Shorts, who earlier this week talked about the excitement of returning to play in front of family members and friends. As a kid, his father raised him to support the local teams.

"I'm all Cleveland -- Browns, Indians, Cavaliers," he said. "That's all I knew growing up."

He's added another entry to the city's pained sports history.

Henne drove the Jaguars (3-9) 80 yards in nine plays for the winning TD as Jacksonville continued its stunning turnaround after losing its first eight games, all by at least 10 points. The Jaguars are 3-1 since their bye with all three victories on the road.

Before Shorts' catch, it appeared Browns beleaguered quarterback Brandon Weeden was going to shake off a rough afternoon. He had given the Browns (4-8) a 28-25 lead with a 95-yard TD pass to Josh Gordon with 3:55 left.

Gordon returned from a head injury and finished 10 catches for a team record 261 yards. He's the first player in NFL history to have consecutive 200-yard games. He had 237 in a loss last week against Pittsburgh, and Gordon has 1,249 yards this season despite missing two games with a drug suspension.

Still, Henne marched the Jaguars downfield to win it. Jacksonville stopped Cleveland's final chance by batting down a desperation pass by Weeden into the end zone.

Josh Scobee kicked three field goals for the Jaguars.

Down 21-20 and their offense doing nothing, the Jaguars took the lead when Browns center Alex Mack snapped the ball over Weeden's head into the end zone and the QB kicked it out of bounds for a safety.

Weeden, back in the starting lineup because Jason Campbell has a concussion, finished 24 of 40 for 370 yards with three TDs and two interceptions -- both coming in the final 2:35 of the first half. A team spokesman said Weeden was diagnosed with a concussion following the game after reporting symptoms.

Because of the head injury, Weeden did not speak with reporters.

Henne went 24 of 40 for 195 yards and two TDs for the Jaguars. Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 77 yards and threw an 8-yard TD pass to Marcedes Lewis in the second quarter.

Gordon left briefly in the third quarter after sustaining a head injury while trying to make a leaping catch. Safety Winston Guy knocked off Gordon's helmet. Gordon's head snapped back and he appeared to bang it as he landed on the hard ground. Guy was penalized for an illegal hit.

Gordon walked to the sideline without any help, was examined on the bench and escorted to the locker room for further evaluation. He returned to a large ovation in the final minute of the quarter and caught a 10-yard pass on his first play back.

A few plays after Gordon went out, Weeden connected with Greg Little for a 4-yard TD to put the Browns ahead 21-20.

Weeden fell apart late in the second period, throwing the two picks and getting stripped of the ball as the Jaguars converted three turnovers into 13 quick points to take a 20-14 halftime lead.

Until his meltdown, Weeden had looked sharp for most of the opening half. He connected with Gordon on a 21-yard TD for a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. The Jaguars tied it when Jones-Drew took a pitch to the right and lobbed his scoring pass to Lewis.

Weeden targeted Gordon on nearly every play as Jacksonville's young secondary struggled to handle the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, who has emerged as a rising NFL star.

Willis McGahee's 1-yard TD run gave the Browns a 7-0 lead, but the Jaguars responded with Henne's 18-yard scoring toss to tight end Clay Harbor.

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