AFC South wrap: Colts, Titans lose on Sunday

AFC South wrap: Colts, Titans lose on Sunday
December 8, 2013, 7:00 pm
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Dec 8, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver LaVon Brazill (15) catches a pass in the end zone for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

(Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

Bengals beat Colts 42-28 to stay perfect at home

CINCINNATI -- A disputed call went the Bengals' way -- not that they absolutely needed it.

Getting Andy Dalton back in form was quite enough.

Dalton regained his passing touch in time to keep the Bengals perfect at home and in control of the AFC North on Sunday. He threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in a 42-28 victory over Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.

The Bengals (9-4) kept their firm grip on first place, two games ahead of Baltimore with three to play.

"We're on a roll," middle linebacker Rey Maualuga said. "At the beginning of the year, we had three goals. We wanted to be undefeated at home, win the AFC North and eventually be world champions.

"We're close to the goals we wanted to get to. We've got to be good from here out."

It had been a while since Dalton was this good.

He was the AFC's offensive player for October, but hadn't put together a consistent game since. He was as good as ever on Sunday, helping the Bengals improve to 6-0 at Paul Brown Stadium on a cold, windy day -- 28 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of 19.

"We know what we're capable of, and we've got some momentum now," said Dalton, who was 24 of 35 for 275 yards without a sack or interception. "But we've got to keep it going."

BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs -- one of them on a review that overturned a call -- as the Bengals got ahead 21-0 and held on.

The Colts (8-5) had another slow start in the cold, falling behind 21-0 before Luck threw four touchdown passes to keep them close. They never caught up as Dalton got the better of a head-to-head matchup of up-and-coming quarterbacks from Texas.

Despite the loss, the Colts clinched the AFC South later Sunday when Denver beat Tennessee 51-28.

Indianapolis is in the playoffs but has some major concerns. The Colts were drubbed 40-11 in Arizona two games ago and needed Adam Vinatieri's five field goals to beat Tennessee 22-14 last week.

"We've got some things to clean up, but we certainly came down here with the mindset that we wanted to win this football game and certainly win the division that way," coach Chuck Pagano said.

The Bengals are having their best season at home since 1988, when they won all eight regular-season home games and two playoff games on the way to a second Super Bowl appearance and loss to San Francisco.

They're in position to clinch their first AFC North title since 2009 with two home games in the last three weeks.

Dalton was sharp from the outset, completing 6 of 7 for 81 yards on the Bengals' first drive, including a 29-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones. The Colts have been outscored 49-9 in the first quarters of their past six games.

The Bengals got a pivotal touchdown on a reversed call with 1:06 left in the first half.

They went for it on fourth down from the Colts 1-yard line. Green-Ellis took the handoff and appeared to get tripped by nose tackle Josh Chapman, who dived into the backfield and swiped at his feet.

"I hit his foot when he came through," said Chapman, who started celebrating his play.

Green-Ellis said he felt someone trip him. He stumbled ahead, avoided a couple of defenders, landed at the 1-yard line and slid into the end zone. He was initially ruled down, but the Bengals were awarded a touchdown after a review.

The review focused only on whether a defender touched Green-Ellis as he fell near the goal line, not whether Chapman had tripped him in the backfield, referee Jeff Triplette said.

"We looked at the goal line, (those) were the shots that we looked at," Triplette said.

Trailing 21-0, Luck finally rallied the Colts.

He completed a slant pass that Da'Rick Rogers took 69 yards for a touchdown and another short pass that LaVon Brazill turned into a 19-yard touchdown, slipping through the hands of six defenders.

Dalton and the Bengals never let the Colts get closer than seven points.

Notes: The Bengals moved 2012 Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth to left guard, and right guard Kevin Zeitler was out of the lineup for the third straight game because of injury. The Colts were missing guards Hugh Thornton and Jeff Linkenbach. ... Colts RB Chris Rainey will get an MRI on an injured ankle. ... The Bengals have scored 49, 41 and 42 points in their past three home games, the first time they've scored at least 40 in three straight at home. ... RB Giovani Bernard had 99 yards on 12 carries, coming up a yard short of the first 100-yard rushing game by a Bengal this season. He also had 49 yards on four catches.

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Prater, Manning lead Broncos, 51-28 over Tennessee

DENVER -- The freezing cold didn't bother Peyton Manning and it certainly was no problem for Matt Prater.

The Broncos kicker lashed a record-setting 64-yard field goal through the icy air Sunday to highlight a 51-28 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

The Broncos (11-2) wrapped up a playoff berth, putting Manning in the postseason for the 13th time.

Manning, whose ability in the cold has been a topic of debate all month in Denver, showed very few signs of distress in clear, 18-degree weather. It hardly was like the snowy, wacky day all across the NFL.

Denver's quarterback completed a team-record 39 passes and matched the franchise high with 59 attempts. He finished with 397 yards, and led the Broncos past the 50-point mark for the third time this year.

But Manning and Prater were about the only Broncos clicking on all cylinders on the day coach John Fox rejoined the team and coached from the sideline after missing four games because of heart surgery.

The special teams gave up a 95-yard kickoff return -- the second return of 90-plus it has allowed in the last two games.

The Titans (5-8) burned the Denver defense frequently, most notably when Ryan Fitzpatrick (13 for 24, 172 yards) picked on rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster on the first drive for a 57-yard completion to Justin Hunter that set up the game's first touchdown.

There were about a half-dozen dropped passes and the Broncos had a whale of a time punching the ball in from the 1. They snapped the ball 11 times from that distance in order to get two touchdowns and a field goal.

It turned Prater's record-setting attempt into much more than a theatrical flourish, which is what most field goals are for a team that has now put up 515 points through 13 games.

Denver had cut a 21-10 deficit to 21-17 before halftime and a penalty forced Manning to start from his 15 with 52 seconds left. An 18-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas got the ball near midfield with 7 seconds left. Then Manning completed a quick 7-yard pass to Jacob Tamme, who went out of bounds with 3 seconds to go.

On came Prater. With the mercury at 14 degrees, he lined up on the right hash mark at his 46, just a few steps over from the eye of the Broncos logo at midfield. The kick cleared the crossbar with a bit of room to spare, and holder Britton Colquitt jumped piggyback onto the kicker to celebrate.

Prater broke a record held by four kickers, set first in 1970 by Tom Dempsey and most recently by David Akers, whose kick last season in Green Bay bounced on the crossbar before going over.

Manning led the Broncos on an 80-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter and the Broncos didn't trail again.

The quarterback's 4,522 yards and 45 touchdowns this season remain on pace to break the NFL records of 5,476 and 50.

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