Titans-Colts Now Look To Playoffs

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   NASHVILLE -- When Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher told Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning that the teams would 'probably see each other again,' he wasn't lying.
   If both teams can fight through their tough schedule and play their best in the AFC playoffs, they will probably see each other again.
   The Colts' 29-27 Sunday victory at The Coliseum seemed like something that could boost the rest of their season, but they may have sparked the Titans in the long run.
   It was Tennessee's last home loss, last season to the Washington Redskins, that did in fact ignite their playoff run.
   "We're 9-4, and that's where we are. If we win out, we end up 12-4 and that's a pretty good season," said Titans defensive end Kevin Carter, after the Titans' first home loss in 11 games.
   "We played up to a point to this date to get into this position. We lost today and things change," he said. "We now have to win the remainder of our games to get into the playoffs. We just have to take a different road now to get into the playoffs, so we will do what we need to do."
   There was a different sense of emotion coming out of the Titans players after Sunday's game.
   Frank Wycheck, who became only the fourth tight end in NFL history to record his 500th reception, didn't have much to say.
   "I really don't want to talk about that, to be honest with you. This is a tough loss and I'm focused on what happened today and not anything personal."
   The players believe things will turn around for them with their backs against the wall.
   "We've now lost two in a row and have to win to even get in the playoffs," Tennessee safety Lance Schulters said. "We put ourselves in this situation with our backs to the wall. We may have been full of ourselves a little too much, but with our backs to the wall, I think this team plays best with our backs to the wall."
   If the Titans play better as the underdog, the Colts arguably play better after strong wins.
   "One thing that this team is capable of doing is some of everything," said Colts running back Edgerrin James. "We can be the physical team, be finesse, we can get you the deep balls or short ... it's just a matter of putting it together."
   The Colts may have swept the Titans this season, but they know the division title is still in reach with Atlanta and Denver remaining on the schedule.
   "No, I really don't because of this crazy league that we play in," Manning said. "This was a good game to win and it put us in better position than it would have if we lost it. We still got three big games left. Nobody's in, nobody's clinched anything."
   "We'll be playing three teams that are very dangerous," added James. "When you play teams that don't have winning records or are kind of out of the playoff picture, those are the teams that want to knock you off. We have Atlanta next and Michael Vick coming."
   MANNING TALKS VOLUNTEER STATE
   While Steve McNair licked his wounds, suffering a sprained left ankle, Manning finally returned to Tennessee with a victory.
   In Sunday's Tennessean, a vote of potential MVP voters had McNair favored heavily over the Indianapolis quarterback. If that same poll were taken late Sunday afternoon, it would probably be lopsided.
   One voter and prominent national columnist said after the game that he would vote for Manning if he continued his performance.
   Manning shrugged the MVP talks away while picking up his equipment before speaking to the media Sunday. He grabbed a shoe hidden between three reporters "before someone puts it on e-bay," he said.
   Before the game, Manning, a Tennessee hero, spent some time signing autographs for a herd of fans in orange and blue dangling around the Colts' tunnel.
   "They get a little mixed," he said of the fans in this state. "There was one guy behind me, he kept giving me the full gamut. He went from my dad to my mom to Eli and didn't really leave anybody out."
   "After that, then you would get the ones who 'love the Titans but still love you Peyton' kind of stuff. I have to say, if I had to have drawn up my career, I would've liked for my biggest NFL rival not to have been in the same state where I played college. But that's the way it is and it certainly makes for a pretty good story."
   The Coliseum was loud supporting Tennessee's defense when the Colts were on offense, but it wasn't as loud as it has been for some of the games.
   That has a lot to do with Manning, who draws lots of Colts fans from this state.
   "I understand these fans and they're Titans fans. That's the way it should be," he said. "I knew an NFL team here would have some of the best fans, because they're football fans."
   "The thing I like about Tennessee fans in general is that they talk about football in February. They are good fans and for the most part, the people have been good to me and I'm grateful for that."
   VANDERJAGT CHASES ANDERSON
   Colts' kicker Mike Vanderjagt stood across the field from the man who holds the record he is chasing.
   Tennessee's Gary Anderson, the NFL's all-time leading scorer, made 40 straight field goals a few years back. Vanderjagt got his total up to 37 with five straight kicks on Sunday.
   "Five-for-five is certainly something that I didn't come here today expecting," Vanderjagt said. "I didn't think we'd get in the red zone five times, let alone kick five field goals. They were all pretty short."