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Colts-Titans: What we learned

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Other than a few injuries, coach Chuck Pagano saw a lot to like from his Indianapolis Colts’ last game before the AFC playoffs.

On the other hand, the Tennessee Titans couldn’t even win for losing.

Quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns in a half of action Sunday as two-time AFC South champion Indianapolis cruised to a 27-10 win at half-full LP Field.

Despite sustaining injuries along the offensive line, the secondary and at wide receiver, the Colts (11-5) outgained Tennessee 378-192 and gave up just nine first downs. Indianapolis, which will be the No. 4 seed and host a wild-card entrant next weekend, never trailed en route to its seventh straight win over the Titans. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne was helped to the sideline with a groin injury after an 80-yard catch-and-run, and Indianapolis lost two starting offensive linemen.

“I’m extremely proud of the guys and what we’ve accomplished, with three 11-win seasons,” Pagano said of his first three seasons as coach. “I think we did a lot of good things out there today. Our defense was solid all day.”

While the shorthanded Titans aren’t exactly a litmus test for a playoff-bound squad, the Colts’ defense created consistent pressure on quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Indianapolis notched four sacks and seven other hits on Whitehurst, who completed just 12 of 28 passes for 72 yards before backup Jordan Palmer relieved him late in the game.

It was the 10th straight loss for Tennessee, which appeared to be in position to claim the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft on April 30. But Tampa Bay came from ahead to lose 23-20 to New Orleans, matching the Titans’ 2-14 record and earning the No. 1 choice due to a weaker strength of schedule.

With the No. 2 overall pick, the Titans might be in position to pick a quarterback who can affect the team as Luck has Indianapolis. Bouncing back from a personal-low 109 yards in last week’s 42-7 loss at Dallas, Luck hit 10-of-16 passes and played to a quarterback rating of 135.4 before taking a second half seat as veteran Matt Hasselbeck mopped up.

Luck’s 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cody Fleener made it 7-0 with 2:54 left in the first quarter. Luck then added a 1-yard scoring flip to backup tight end Jack Doyle with 8:54 remaining in the first half.

Hasselbeck went 13-of-19 for 155 yards and an 8-yard touchdown pass to Fleener with 3:16 remaining in the game. Placekicker Adam Vinatieri added 23 and 26-yard field goals, although his quest to finish the season without a miss ended when he hooked a 46-yarder in the third quarter after converting 29 in a row.

Tennessee’s points came on Whitehurst’s 6-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Kendall Wright with 5:07 left in the first half and kicker Ryan Succop’s 31-yard field goal at the 4:01 mark of the third quarter.

What the Colts said:

“We understand that in order to reach our ultimate goal, there are steps we’ve got to take and we’re going to take it one step at a time.” — coach Chuck Pagano.

What the Titans said:

“That was us, the Kansas City game.” — TE Delanie Walker, on a season-opening 26-10 win in Kansas City.

What we learned about the Colts:

1. The offensive line probably won’t be able to control many postseason games with its run blocking. Indianapolis averaged just 2.1 yards on 30 rushes against Tennessee, which has one of the league’s worst run defenses. RBs Daniel Herron and Trent Richardson instill fear in no one, leaving the load for third-year QB Andrew Luck to shoulder. The NFL may be a passing league, but you still have to run at least a little bit.

2. OLB Jonathan Newsome ended the season with a bang, notching a pair of sacks to finish as the team leader with 6.5. Newsome also finished the day with six tackles, including one for loss, a forced fumble and a quarterback hit. If he can keep finding the quarterback in the postseason, it would be a boost for a defense that doesn’t have a whole lot of playmakers.

–WR Reggie Wayne (groin) left the game in the second quarter after an 80-yard catch-and-run on which he clearly slowed down the last 20 yards. Coach Chuck Pagano said after the game that Wayne would undergo treatment on Monday to better gauge the severity of his injury.

–LG A.Q. Shipley (ankle) left the game in the third quarter and wasn’t able to return. Along with Wayne and RG Hugh Thornton (shoulder), Shipley will require further evaluation before the Colts will know where he stands for next week’s playoff opener.

–RT Gosder Cherilus (groin) was inactive, and his status for next week’s playoff opener at home isn’t known. With other injuries hampering the offensive line, Indianapolis needs Cherilus to return, even if he isn’t at 100 percent.

What we learned about the Titans:

1. There are many needs for this team in the offseason, but tops among them might be an offensive line that simply has not gotten the job done the last two years. General manager Ruston Webster’s investments in LG Andy Levitre and LT Michael Oher have not reaped much in the way of quality play or wins. Injuries basically ruined what was left of the line, leaving the quarterbacks to fend for themselves.

2. WR Nate Washington might have played his last game for the team. Seen as a missing piece when he signed as a free agent following Tennessee’s 13-3 season in 2008, Washington instead slogged through six seasons of occasionally productive results. He didn’t make a catch Sunday, an unfortunate ending for someone who was respected for playing hard at all times. The door is left open for him to return, but don’t be surprised if he goes somewhere else where he can play meaningful games in December.

–QB Charlie Whitehurst (shoulder) was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter after absorbing a spate of hard hits. Whitehurst was sacked four times, including a decleater in the fourth quarter by OLB Jonathan Newsome. Whitehurst completed just 12 of 28 passes for 72 yards, but with a beat-up offensive line in front of him, it’s hard to blame him for the team’s last loss of 2014.

–RB Shonn Greene nearly became the first Tennessee running back this season to rush for 100 yards, but fell short with 94 on just 11 carries. Greene missed time in the second half after appearing to injure his shoulder at the end of a highlight-film 52-yard run in the third quarter that saw him dump-truck S Mike Adams. Greene also ripped off a 17-yard run in the second quarter to set up the team’s only TD.

–WR Kendall Wright (ankle) limped off the field in the first half, but was able to return. Wright scored the team’s only TD on a 6-yard reception in the second quarter, the highlight of a quiet day that him make only two catches for 9 yards. Wright also rushed once for 10 yards. He finished the season second on the team in receptions with 57 for 715 yards.


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