Same sum, different math.
The Indianapolis Colts’ improbable run continued Sunday with a 27-23 victory against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The game hewed close to a familiar script on many themes. Indianapolis improved to 8-1 in games decided by one score or less, and it was the seventh straight home game to come down to the final drive.
But the Colts (9-4) tweaked the ending a bit this time around. It was the defense making the big, game-changing plays and the offense holding on to the lead late.
“It was a great team win again, and like I said earlier, there won’t be any blowouts with this team,” Indianapolis interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. “This team is too young. We just try to figure out a way to win every week, and so far we’ve been able to do that.”
The latest victory brings the Colts to the brink of the postseason. Losses by the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) and Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) on Sunday gave Indianapolis a two-game lead for the AFC’s fifth playoff spot with three regular-season games to play.
The formula for the Colts clinching a playoff spot remains convoluted, taking into account possibilities such as the 6-7 New York Jets winning out and the Bengals and Steelers playing to a tie in their Dec. 23 meeting.
Indianapolis also will remain alive in the race for the AFC South title if the 11-1 Houston Texans lose tonight against the 9-3 New England Patriots.
With so much uncertainty remaining in the picture, it’s best the Colts remain focused on tending to their own business.
Against Tennessee (4-9) that meant overcoming a rugged first half that left Indianapolis with a 20-7 deficit.
Andrew Luck was responsible for part of that margin, throwing his third interception that was returned for a touchdown late in the second quarter with the Colts trailing 10-7.
Replays appeared to show at least one of Luck’s knees — if not both — was down before he released the football. But referee Peter Morelli didn’t see enough on video to overturn the call.
“I saw it on the [video board],” Luck said. “I was hoping that they would call me down. But I probably deserved a pick-six for trying to throw a football in that position going down, right at a defender. So learn from it, and don’t do it again, hopefully.”
The Titans also scored on an 18-yard pass from Jake Locker to Jared Cook on the game’s opening drive and a pair of Rob Bironas field goals in the second quarter.
Locker finished with 262 yards, but he gained just 49 in the second half and was intercepted twice.
“We were ahead of the chains in the first half and we weren’t in the second, and that can make a difference,” Locker said.
Meanwhile, the Colts’ offense sprung to life.
After managing just a 4-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne in the first half, Luck directed an 80-yard drive to start the third quarter that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Delone Carter and cut the deficit to six.
Cornerback Cassius Vaughn erased it entirely exactly three minutes later. On the first play after Pat McAfee pinned the Titans at their own 1-yard line with a 52-yard punt, Vaughn intercepted Locker’s pass and returned it 3 yards to the end zone for a go-ahead score.
Vaughn said Locker had been going to his side on intermediate routes throughout the first half. He gambled the quarterback would try the same thing again and won.
“It was one of them moments where we knew we had to try to make a play,” he said. “We made a play, and that turned the game around for us.”
After the teams traded field goals, Darius Butler grabbed the second interception against Locker. His came at the Titans’ 28-yard line and set up a 40-yard Vinatieri field goal to end the scoring.
Tennessee had one final chance to win. The Titans picked up a first down at their own 30 but believed they had a third-and-short and called a quarterback sneak. Locker was stopped for no gain on the play and then threw a pair of incompletions to force a punt.
Indianapolis took over at its own 10-yard line. Vick Ballard picked up a first down with a 13-yard run, and Luck sealed the game with an 11-yard pass to tight end Dwayne Allen on second-and-10 from the 24.
Luck finished just 16-of-34 for 196 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. But he surpassed Peyton Manning’s franchise record for rookie passing yards, and he’s now just 259 yards shy of Cam Newton’s NFL record.
As usual, however, the only record Luck was focused on was 9-4.
“I think it’s the best team game in the world, I really do,” he said. “You have to rely on so many guys and so many different phases of the game. It’s fun when you can get team victories.”
Same sum, different math.
Eastern boys track claims first sectional title since 1998
The boys track and field coach at Eastern High School from 1987 until last season, Paul Nicholson’s parting message to his team was simple: “Don’t deny the gift.”
That motto left such a lasting impression on the Comets’ returning athletes that they had it screen printed on their 2013 season T-shirts.
With Nicholson in attendance to celebrate with them, new coach Austin Roark and the Comets outlasted host Kokomo to win their first sectional title since 1998 Thursday night, topping the Wildkats by 3.5 points, 124.5-121.
Eastern, Kokomo favored in boys track sectional
Some of the names and faces have changed, but the plot remains much the same.
The Kokomo boys track and field sectional, much like last year, will likely be a two-horse race between the host and three-time defending champion Wildkats and Eastern, a team looking to break through and win its first sectional title since 1998.
Cole to jump at Miami University
Eastern athlete Grant Cole has only been a long jumper for two seasons, but being turned on to the event late in his career has landed him a scholarship to Miami University.
Comets roar to sectional title
As the old adage goes, it’s harder stay on top than it is to reach the top.
Eastern’s girls track and field team entered the 2012 postseason hoping to put in a strong enough effort to claim the program’s first sectional title.
Having done so, the Comets entered Tuesday’s postseason opener — the Madison-Grant Sectional — with a much larger bull’s-eye on their backs than in previous years.
Eastern proved up to the challenge, scoring a landslide victory to repeat as sectional champions with 125 points.
Dexter leaving Eastern
Eastern girls basketball coach Jeremy Dexter has stepped down from the Comet program after accepting the AD job at Churubusco last week. Churubusco is in Whitley County about 15 minutes west of Fort Wayne.
Dexter led the Comets to a Class 2A state runner-up finish this past season.
Hunter edges Shrout in Thunder Car thriller
Two drivers who are no strangers to Victory Lane returned there Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway. Meanwhile, a third driver scored just the second feature win of his career at the local oval to highlight the racing action.
Chris Hunter, the winningest Thunder Car driver in the history of the local oval, ground out a gritty win over defending track champion Jason Shrout to highlight the chilly night.
Girls track sectional is tonight
Eastern’s girls track and field team is ready to chase some more championship hardware.
Two weeks ago, the Comets won their fourth straight Howard County meet. Last week, they won their fourth straight Mid-Indiana Conference meet. Now, the postseason is here, with the Madison-Grant Sectional tonight.
“We’re looking forward to taking the next step,” Eastern coach Michael Goodspeed said.
Athlete of the week
Oyler led the way as Class 2A No. 5-ranked Eastern beat Cass (4-3) and Hamilton Heights (5-4 in 12 innings) to move to 6-0 in the Mid-Indiana Conference with one league game remaining.
Page family bonds over martial arts
A mother and father to six children, Jason and Denise Page began to run into your typical challenges associated with such a large family back in 2008, once the oldest children reached an age where they started to have desires to be involved in sports and other extracurricular activities.
As the commitments started to pile up, it didn’t seem like there were enough hours in the day to accomplish all the pitstops and still have time left over to fellowship as a family.
Karate to the rescue.
Kats' Sebree to play for JC power Cochise
LaBradford Sebree is accustomed to winning.
Sebree was a three-year starter for Kokomo’s boys basketball team. He helped the Wildkats compile a 65-11 record (the seventh-best mark in Indiana over that stretch) with a Class 4A state runner-up finish in 2011.
The 6-foot-2 swingman hopes to keep on winning at the next level. He will play at Cochise College, a Division I junior college in Douglas, Ariz. Douglas is located in the southeast corner of the state.
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