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NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - INSIDE SLANT
With running back Donald Brown having his best game of the season in Thursday night's nationally-televised 30-27 win over the Tennessee Titans, will the Indianapolis Colts make a change in the starting offensive lineup?
Will Brown, who rushed for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 14 carries, supplant Trent Richardson as the team's starting running back?
While Brown has played well in his backup role this season - first behind Vick Ballard, then Ahmad Bradshaw and now Richardson - the Indianapolis coaching staff is expected to keep the current running back rotation exactly as is.
Richardson, who was added to the team's roster in early September after a trade with Cleveland, has struggled since coming to the Colts. The Browns received Indianapolis' first-round pick in next year's NFL Draft.
"We obviously have a very good situation right now with Trent and Donald," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Friday. "Donald had an exceptional football game (against the Titans). He's been playing well this entire season and doing a great job for us.
"You look at Trent's runs. For whatever reason, there's penetration. There's a guy who's pulling and falls down. There's a guy in the guy in the backfield waiting. He's had some really good runs, plays that he made in space (on) screens. Things like that that he does a great job with."
It's obvious the Colts haven't given up on Richardson.
"That's going to come. I think we're going with those two guys (Richardson and Brown) has been productive for both players. Guy gets hot, we can always go with the hot hand. But I like the way we're doing things now."
According to Pagano, Richardson's problems have been more a matter of circumstance.
"For whatever reason, we miss a block here or there and a guy is sitting there free in the hole. And it just happens when we hand the ball to (No.) 34. So it's nothing that he did," Pagano said.
"I don't know if he's snakebit. I don't know what the heck is going on. But we'll get it fixed. We'll get the holes there. He's making the right reads, he's doing all the right things. He knows what to do. He played great without the ball, (pass) protection-wise, those things. His numbers are going to come. I'm not concerned about that."
As for Brown, the Colts coach is not surprised by how well he has been playing when given the opportunity.
"He's playing really well. Running hard, hitting the hole, breaking tackles. Yards after contact. We all know that out in space, he's a dynamic guy," Pagano said.
"He can take it the distance when he gets loose. So he's playing exceptionally well."
When asked if he regretted the deal that brought Richardson in, Pagano quickly replied: "Absolutely not."
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - NOTES, QUOTES
--Colts coach Chuck Pagano was asked about his team's ability to stage rallies in the second half of games and pull out wins after rallying yet again to win at Tennessee on Thursday night.
"This speaks to their character, their mindset," Pagano said. "They are resilient. They were bound and determined to try to find a way to make amends for the home loss that we had (to St. Louis last week).
"That was embarrassing. Everyone was embarrassed and they wanted to do whatever they could do to make amends and to come down (to Tennessee) and no matter what get this one."
The Colts rallied from a 17-3 halftime deficit to beat Tennessee 30-27.
"It was good. A great team victory on the road for a divisional game," quarterback Luck said. "We know with Tennessee it is always salty and it is always tough. This is a good, hard-nosed bunch. We are fortunate and happy to get a win."
--The Colts have now won 18 games since Luck was selected with the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. In one-third of those wins, Indianapolis has trailed by double-digits.
Also, the Colts are 14-2 the last two seasons (5-1 this year) in games decided by seven points or less.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We definitely needed this one after last week, playing as bad as we played. Thursday games are always sloppy, they're always a big challenge for everybody, short week. To be able to come out and not play as well as we could have and get a win versus a good team, a good conference team, it just shows a lot about the character of the guys on the team and how good our coaches really are." - Colts linebacker Pat Angerer.
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--OG Mike McGlynn (thumb) started at left guard and played the entire Tennessee game with a fractured thumb on his right hand. He wore a cast on the hand, which did not appear to restrict him during the game or hurt his effectiveness.
--NT Josh Chapman (knee) saw playing time against the Titans. Chapman, who underwent knee surgery prior to last season, experienced some swelling in the knee three weeks ago and did not play against Houston or St. Louis.
--ILB Pat Angerer led the Colts with nine total tackles against the Titans (eight solo). But Angerer's biggest play of the night was when he came up with an on-sides kick by Tennessee PK Rob Bironas near the end of the game.
"Our special teams coach told us about that the other day, how (the Titans) do (the on-sides) kick. The way they had the ball initially, kind of parallel to the line, usually he kicks it to the left or straight on," Angerer said.
"I just knew I had to get on the ball before it went 10 (yards) so nobody cleaned me out a little bit."
--OLB Erik Walden will be waiting to hear from the league offices as to whether he will be fined, suspended or both after an on-field issue with Titans TE Delanie Walker. Walden tore Walker's helmet off during an argument and then head-butted the Tennessee player. Walden was penalized for a personal foul.
"It was a selfish act," the Colts player said later. "It could have cost my team bigger than it did. I lost my composure.
"It (is) something that can't happen. It wasn't really something (Walker) did. It was ticky-tack. I can't allow myself to take it that far."
--DE Cory Redding registered a sack against the Titans, giving him 3.5 sacks overall for the season. That's the most sacks that Redding has had in a season since registering eight for Detroit in 2006.
--WR Darius Heyward-Bey (ankle) left the Tennessee game in the first half and did not return. Heyward-Bey's availability for next week's game at Arizona has not been determined.
--CB Greg Toler (groin) has not played the last three games. Toler was injured in the Colts' win over Denver three weeks ago. He is hopeful of playing at Arizona next week. Toler may be tested again on Monday.
--CB Josh Gordy (groin) was sidelined for the Titans game. Gordy was hurt against Denver and has missed the last two games. No decision has been made as to whether he will be cleared to play at Arizona next week although he has been making good progress. Gordy might be cleared to play against the Cardinals.
--S Delano Howell (head) did not play at Tennessee. Howell has been out since he hurt against Denver on Oct. 20. He might be available for the Arizona game.
REPORT CARD VS. TITANS:
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- The Colts, once again (it sounds like a broken record), got off to a slow start offensively. Especially in the passing game. QB Andrew Luck completed 23 of 36 passes for 232 yards. He was sacked once and was hurried on four other plays. TE Coby Fleener registered career-bests in catches (8) and total receiving yards 107). Luck completed passes to nine different receivers. WR T.Y. Hilton and RB Trent Richardson each caught five passes in the game.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Feed the Beast, as in backup RB Donald Brown. Brown has had a history of having big games against Tennessee. And he did it again Thursday night, rushing for a team-high 80 yards in 14 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Luck added 31 yards on eight carries, including a TD run off a busted play. RB Trent Richardson ended the night with 22 yards in eight carries. The Colts averaged 4.3 yards per rushing attempt against Tennessee.
PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- Tennessee QB Ryan Fitzpatrick started hot and then cooled off some as the game progressed in the second half. Fitzpatrick completed 22 of 28 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. He was also sacked twice and was hurried on five occasions. TE Delanie Walker had 10 receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. WR Kendall Wright added nine receptions for 80 yards.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- Titans RB Chris Johnson had 80 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns in the first half. Johnson, though, ended up the game with 86 rushing yards on 17 carries. Thirty of those yards came on his first touchdown run. He had four rushes for a total of six yards in the second half. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick added 26 yards on four scrambles, including a run of 15 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- PK Adam Vinatieri hit on three field goals, making kicks of 48, 30 and 50 yards. P Pat McAfee averaged 29.0 yards net and 37 yards overall on three punts. McAfee had one kick downed inside the 20-yard line and one touchback on a kickoff. One of his kickoffs rolled out of bounds. WR T.Y. Hilton averaged 7.5 yards on two punt returns. WR David Reed averaged 18.7 yards on three kickoff returns. RB Daniel Herron recovered a fumbled kickoff to set up a Colts touchdown. ILB Pat Angerer came up with an on-sides kick near the end of the game to secure the Indianapolis victory.
COACHING: B -- Give the Colts coaching staff some much deserved credit. Yet another slow start on both sides of the ball to begin the game and signs of Indianapolis losing its composure in the second quarter, Chuck Pagano and his assistants rallied the team at halftime, made the necessary offensive and defensive changes that enabled the Colts to post an important AFC South victory.