(TSX / STATS) — INDIANAPOLIS — They aren’t flashy, but the Tennessee Titans are 7-4 and are 5-1 since a 6-point loss on Oct. 8 at Miami, including a 20-16 comeback on Sunday.
During the current 5-1 stretch, the Titans have two 3-point victories – beating Cleveland and Baltimore by field goals – along with two 4-point victories – beating Cincinnati and now the Colts.
For the second time this season, Tennessee rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Indianapolis.
On Oct. 16 in Nashville, Tennessee outscored Indianapolis 21-3 in the final 15 minutes for a 36-22 victory.
On Sunday, Tennessee seized a 20-16 lead with 5:59 remaining on DeMarco Murray’s 1-yard touchdown run to cap a nine-play, 77-yard drive.
The Titans began their comeback with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter on Marcus Mariota’s 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Delanie Walker, one play after free safety Kevin Byard recovered a fumble by running back Marlon Mack at the Colts’ 4-yard line and then an Indianapolis offside penalty.
Byard’s fumble recovery cut the deficit to 16-13.
Indianapolis’ 26 second-half plays produced only 111 yards, 4.3 yards a snap.
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said his team’s red-zone defense was the difference in the game, allowing only one touchdown in 60 minutes.
“We had a relentless pass rush,” Mularkey said. “Our defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau, called a good game. This time of year (November and December) all wins are important. I also thought Derrick Henry made some really nice runs and good decisions. We made some nice adjustments in our running game and no one panicked at the end.”
Mariota finished 17 of 25 for 184 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed 17-of-29 passes for 196 yards, but was sacked eight times as Indianapolis (3-8) produced only three second-half points and was outscored 14-3 after leading by seven at halftime.
“Our offensive coordinator, Terry Robiskie, challenged our offense at halftime,” Mariota said. “He was pretty fired up. From my perspective, both of my interceptions simply were poor throws. I have some injuries, but everybody plays with injuries.”
Indianapolis increased its lead to 16-6 with 6:05 left in the third quarter on Adam Vinatieri’s third field goal of the day, a 42-yarder, capping a 13-play, 55-yard drive.
For Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano, the outcome is too familiar: another fourth-quarter meltdown.
“These are 60-minute games, and we again had plenty of opportunities,” said Pagano, whose team has been outscored 117-28 in fourth quarters this season. “We didn’t take advantage of those opportunities, although again, we played well in spurts. We had nine penalties and turned the ball over deep in our own territory. It’s about doing your job and finishing.
“It’s about doing it over and over and over again. We had to be able to overcome the Marlon Mack fumble in the third quarter. The kid works really hard, but he fumbles, and they go in and score. It stinks. But you still have the lead and have to overcome that. You have to fight through the adversity.”
The Colts took advantage of two second-quarter interceptions of Mariota to produce 10 points and lead 13-6 through 30 minutes.
Left cornerback Rashaan Marvin’s interception of Mariota with 8:32 remaining in the second quarter set up an 11-play, 45-yard drive capped by Vinatieri’s 28-yard field goal that tied the score 6-6.
With 1:54 left in the second quarter, right cornerback Nate Hairston intercepted Mariota at the Titans’ 34-yard line, setting up Frank Gore’s 14-yard touchdown run, giving the Colts a 13-6 halftime lead. The Indianapolis drive covered the 34 yards in six plays.
Indianapolis outgained Tennessee 143-109 in yards during the opening 30 minutes when the Titans sacked Brissett six times for 22 yards in losses.
“We have to be able to overcome those sacks,” Brissett said. “It is on us. I have to do a better job. It is a matter of me and everyone else being on the same page. We also have to be consistent. In these final five games, no doubt, we have to be consistent.
“The fourth quarters this season, it has been about being focused. Those sacks are a mixture of everything. I have to do a better job of saving those bad plays. It’s always on me. We have to take a better approach. I have to step up and be a better competitor.”
Mariota was 6 of 10 in the first half for 98 yards, but he was intercepted twice. Brissett was 10 of 16 for 109 yards in the first two quarters.
NOTES: Colts C Ryan Kelly left the game in the first half with a concussion, and CB Rashaan Melvin left in the third quarter with a hand injury. … Tennessee S Da’Norris Searcy left in the third quarter with an ankle sprain. … Tennessee came in ranked 22nd in turnover margin at minus-3. … Indianapolis was coming off its bye week after losing to Pittsburgh 20-17 on Nov. 12 in Lucas Oil Stadium. … Indianapolis is 2-4 at home this season, beating only winless Cleveland and San Francisco while losing to Arizona, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh and Tennessee.