Indianapolis too tough for Titans


star staff


  NASHVILLE--Bill Polian hit his table and cursed a few times Sunday, but the successful president of the Indianapolis Colts left the press box with something many Tennessee Titans fans did not have -- a smile.
  In the first big marquee meeting of the season between the AFC South rivals, Peyton Manning won the first battle of the 2003 Most Valuable Players as his Colts defeated Tennessee by an ugly 31-17 margin at the Coliseum Sunday.
  "Today's game obviously showed you have to play for four quarters," said Titan coach Jeff Fisher. "All week, our plan was to run the football with balance and keep them off the field. Our plan worked in the first half. It did not work as well we would've liked in the second half. We were equipped to do things offensively. We let this thing slip away in the second half."
  A game which saw the Titans come close to putting things away early, quickly turned around due to Indy's explosive passing offense and a few costly turnovers and 71 yards in penalties.
  "We played a great football team," Fisher said. "We had a great deal of respect for them coming into this game. Things didn't work out, but I think this thing is all about how you deal with wins and losses, and how you keep things in perspective."
  Tennessee (1-1) could've led by two or three scores at the end of the first half, but came out with a touchdown lead.
  The home team would take another lead in the third quarter, but the Colts (1-1) put three fourth-quarter touchdowns on the board.
  "Offensively, we found our rhythm," said the former Tennessee Volunteer, Manning, who was 24-of-33 with 254 yards and two touchdown passes in the game. "We had a couple of three and outs early (in the first half) and it made us throw more in the second half.
  "These AFC South games count double," he said. "(The Titans) usually only lose one game a year here. It's a tough place to play and we'll take a win anytime we can get it."
  The other MVP from a year ago, Titans quarterback Steve McNair had a solid outing despite two late turnovers. McNair tallied 273 yards on a 25-of-39 night with one interception and a fumble.
  "Every time you lose, it's a bad feeling," said McNair. "When you're going against a good team like Indy, you can't make mistakes. We left too many plays out on the field."
  Each team scored on its first drive of the game.
  Tennessee drove itself 79 yards with a mix of passes and runs before Chris Brown blasted down the right side of the field for a 20-yard score to open things up.
  Indy took advantage of 25 yards of penalties against the Titans on their first drive which saw plenty of Edgerrin James runs before Mike Vanderjagt hit a 28-yard field goal.
  The Titans blew some opportunities in the second quarter. First, the team was stopped on downs inside the Indy five-yard line.
  Later, Derrick Mason and Drew Bennett dropped touchdown passes to make Tennessee settle for a 39-yard field goal from the returning Gary Anderson.
  Indianapolis looked like a different field when it took the field on its first drive in the third quarter.
  The Colts used 36 more yards in Titans penalties, along with some clutch grabs from Marvin Harrison and James to set up an eight-yard scoring strike to Reggie Wayne.
  McNair fired back with four big completions on the next drive for Tennessee. Brown almost got into the end zone on a 17-yard run, which set up another Tennessee lead when the quarterback plowed himself in for a one-yard score.
  Manning went to the no huddle offense two series later for Indy, touching Harrison for a 12-yard gain and Wayne with a 44-yard strike. James broke a 22-yarder up the gut to set up a one-yard touchdown throw to Marcus Pollard to kick off the fourth quarter.
  With the game tied at 17, Tennessee drove the length of the field. McNair threw one up for receiver Derrick Mason in the end zone on a crucial fourth down conversion, but Nick Harper came down with it for the Colts.
  "These games always come down to the final drives," Manning said. "(The interception) gave us a chance to get the score, and the win."
  Manning completed some big gains to his top two wideouts before James gave the visiting unit its first lead with a four-yard plunge into the end zone.
  On the next Titans drive, McNair missed Drew Bennett three straight times and Craig Hentrich's trick punt pass didn't grab enough yards to move the chains for the home team.
  Indy put the exclamation point on the game with a 30-yard touchdown run from James.
  The fans were unhappy with the officials late as Tennessee tried to patch some wounds on their drive. It appeared as though Eddie Berlin caught an 18-yarder that could've been ruled a score.
  However, the play was reversed and called incomplete much to the dismay of the Coliseum. McNair wound up getting hit in the backfield by Brad Scioli, forcing a fumble to end the contest.
  Statistically, including the quarterbacks, each of the game's main players had solid performances.
  Brown became the first Titan run rush over 150 yards in a game since 2000 with his 152-yard performance with a touchdown. For the Colts, James' 30-yard scoring run gave him 124 yards on 21 carries with a pair of scores.
  Each team had a 100-yard receiver. Tennessee was led by a 9-for-104 effort from Derrick Mason, with Drew Bennett pulling down seven grabs for 85 yards, while Reggie Wayne led the Colts with 119 yards on seven grabs and a score.
  Indy's top receiver Marvin Harrison was held to 98 yards on 10 grabs.
  Next week the Titans host the surprising Jacksonville Jaguars, while Indianapolis gets a visit from Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.