Manning, Colts take tumble against Titans

By Wes Holtsclaw

STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   NASHVILLE -- The Titans rule the AFC South.
   Backed behind a tremendous defensive outing, and good tone-setting offensive domination, the Tennessee Titans proved that the south was their territory with a 27-17 defeat over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
   It was the return of Manning to Tennessee, where he excelled during his college career. However, it was the Titans that proved that Peyton-Mania was no more, at least for this afternoon.
   Said Manning: "We had our chances. They played us a little differently than they have teams all year. They gave us a lot of different looks, but our combination couldn't make enough plays."
   "It's very, very difficult to get Peyton Manning in the blitz situations," said Titans coach Jeff Fisher. "I thought our defensive staff did a great job all week. We played as good of a game as we have played today.
   "We managed the game well. We made them play the long field as often as possible, we made them drive the football and tried to minimize the big plays."
   "It's 53 guys in this locker room who made a commitment this week to play our own style of game," said Titan tight end Frank Wycheck. "We weren't getting much respect. Everyone's 'Colts, Colts, Colts,' and we took that personally. We'd won six of our last seven and no one made a mention of it, so we kind of had a grudge and played well today."
   The Titans got three picks off of Manning, who finished the game with 297 yards and a touchdown through the air. His counterpart Steve McNair was everywhere, connecting for 237 yards through the air and 49 on the ground with an aerial strike for a score.
   "He had a good game," said Manning, referring to McNair. "He put our defense in some tight spots. He was big on third downs and he took it and ran it well. They did a good job of stepping up the run."
   "I thought we got outplayed today," said Colts coach Tony Dungy. "They played outstanding football, especially McNair. He made all of the big plays in the clutch. He moved around and basically made the points they needed to win it.
   "We had a chance, we closed it down to seven points, but we couldn't get them stopped when we needed to. You have to give them a lot of credit, they had a play and got the job done today."
   It was tough from the beginning for Indy as the Titans wanted the ball to open the game, and delivered it via touchdown to the Colts.
   After some nice runs from Steve McNair and Eddie George, McNair slung it home to John Simon with a 42-yarder with the Joe Nedney PAT giving them the 7-0 lead to start off.
   The Colts rallied back with an aggressive effort from Peyton Manning and Edgerin James, but a misread from the former Tennessee Volunteer allowed Keith Bullock to pick off his first of the season.
   A pair of good defensive holds from both squads gave the ball back to the Titans, who picked apart the Indianapolis zone defense with some nice throws from McNair to Frank Wycheck and Derrick Mason.
   As the second quarter began, the Titans switched ends and continued their drive of domination. Robert Holcombe put Tennessee in a first and goal situation, when Eddie George pounded his way to a seven yard score to put the Titans on top at 14-0.
   The Colts roared back with two blasting completions from Manning, including a 49-yarder to Qadry Ismail. A holding penalty set Indianapolis back, but Manning responded with his cool and calm self striking down Marcus Pollard with a 16-yard touchdown completion to pull the Colts within a score.
   Tennessee responded with Derrick Mason making some clinching grabs from McNair to move the chains. George ground out some yardage for Tennessee, when Wycheck put the Titans in position to score with a 10-yard grab.
   George then plowed clean through the second-ranked defense with a one-yard score, to put his squad back up by two scores.
   Indianapolis responded with a no-huddle counter attack from Manning and James, leading to a 44-yard field goal from Mike Vanderjagt at the end of the first half, cutting into the Titans lead at 21-10.
   The long third quarter was a pure display of defense on both fronts, as Peyton Manning was intercepted twice, including once in the end zone late due to a dropped catch from Marvin Harrison. Indianapolis had plenty of chances, but the plays simply escaped their grip.
   Tennessee capitalized in the fourth quarter with two field goals from Joe Nedney to put away any chances that the Colts had left. Although Peyton rallied his boys for one final score, it simply wasn't enough as the Titans overwhelmingly came away with the win.
   "We can't do anything about it now," said Manning. "We've got to take care of the rest of our games and hope that some teams win. Obviously, they have had the upper hand on us. They've played well against us."
   NOTES: There was a multitude of orange and white in the crowd, as many of Manning's Volunteer supporters made effort for this game.
   Said Manning: "We came down here last year and several came out for the scrimmage. For the people here, the UT fans and everybody that still supports me, I always appreciate it."
   Reggie Wayne led all receivers with 103 yards for the Colts, while Marvin Harrison set a record for most receptions by a Colts receiver (career) in the game.