The Indianapolis Colts picked up a close win yet again on Sunday, but didn't fall behind by two scores for the first time since their Week 7 win over Denver. With the win over Tennessee, Indianapolis takes a three-game lead in the division, a seemingly insurmountable lead with just four games left.
With two wins over Tennessee, it's essentially a four-game lead. Tennessee would need to go 4-0 over the next four weeks, and Indianapolis would have to go 0-4, in order for Tennessee to take the division.
The Colts have a big game against the AFC rival Cincinnati Bengals next week. The winner will likely take the third seed in the AFC, earning a matchup with the six seed in the playoffs, rather than the fifth seed (likely the Kansas City Chiefs).
For now, however, let's take a look at Sunday's top performers in this week's report card.
Andrew Luck: C
Luck is a fine young quarterback, but even he can't deal with the situation he's been put in. His receivers are struggling, his offensive line is downright bad and the running game is inconsistent at best.
The Colts have to find some way to protect Luck, but also need their receivers to get separation somehow. Some of that is on Pep Hamilton to put together better route combinations. However, most of the issues stem from a lack of talent. The Colts desperately need to upgrade the position in the offseason.
Andrew Luck loses Reggie Wayne and turns in the worst 5-game stretch of his career. Just a 39.8 QBR (71.9 w/Wayne). #ESPN— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) December 2, 2013
Donald Brown: B+
Brown struggled to start the game, as the offensive line allowed penetration on each of Brown's first eight carries, which netted just eight yards. But Brown found space on the Colts' final drive, a game-icing touchdown drive that saw Brown rush for 46 yards and a touchdown on six carries. When given opportunities, Brown produces.
Richardson rushed for 19 yards on five carries, but 11 of those yards came on an 11-yard draw on 3rd-and-20. He did have a conversion on 4th-and-1 and will likely be limited to short-yardage situations from here on out.
T.Y. Hilton: C-
Five catches for Hilton on Sunday, but only for 46 yards, as Tennessee once again did a great job of corralling him after the catch, along with keeping him from challenging downfield. It's the third straight game with less than 50 yards for Hilton, who needs to step up, especially against man-to-man coverage.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: D
He's been a disaster. He had a good play on a shallow crossing pattern early in the game, but he dropped a huge pass later and struggled to get open. Heyward-Bey was finally benched in the fourth quarter, and his future in Indianapolis is a glaring question.
LaVon Brazill: C+
Brazill has produced a bit over the last few weeks and picked up three catches for 42 yards in this one. He needs to make more tough catches if he's going to be a significant part of the offense going forward.
Da'Rick Rogers: Inc.
Rogers saw his first action against Tennessee and drew a defensive pass interference on his first, and only, target of the game. But Rogers' time was limited from there on out.
Let's see Da'Rick Rogers, for crying out loud. He can't possibly be worse than DHB.— Bob Kravitz (@bkravitz) December 1, 2013
Coby Fleener: B-
Fleener started out strong, catching two passes for 37 yards in the first quarter. But Fleener only caught one more pass in the game, a 23-yard pass in the fourth quarter. Fleener has to be a key part for the offense to sustain success, and right now, he isn't.
Jack Doyle: C-
Doyle is a blocking specialist, but poor blocks on outside runs by Brown and Heyward-Bey led to big losses that killed drives. He's generally been a solid blocking tight end, but today was not his best day.
Run Blocking: B-
As discussed a few slides ago, the run game was nonexistent for three quarters. But the line found a way to create a bit of separation in the fourth quarter, and that was all Brown needed to seal the game. It's not the kind of performance you want to see every week, but it's better than nothing.
Pass Protection: D+
Andrew Luck was sacked five times in this game and was hit seven times (officially). It's safe to say the line struggled, even with the insertion Jeff Linkenbach in the lineup over Mike McGlynn at right guard.
We all talk about how much RGIII gets hit. But holy cow, Andrew Luck is being whacked over and over. O-line issues hurting them.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 1, 2013
Run Defense: B-
The run defense kept both Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene below four yards per carry, but there was a lack of discipline in other areas. Ryan Fitzpatrick ran for 54 yards on just eight carries, as the Colts lost contain on multiple occasions.
Pass Rush: D-
Linebacker Robert Mathis showed up and got a sack, but the defensive line was kept out of the backfield for the entire game. Defensive end Ricardo Mathews earned the lone quarterback hit for the line, as the unit continued to struggle immensely in pass rush.
Robert Mathis: B
Mathis earned sack No. 15.5 on the year and continues to lead the league. With his high sack numbers, he's beginning to get some attention for Defensive Player of the Year.
Robert Mathis with an excellent strip sack. He's up there on my DPOY ballot.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 1, 2013
Erik Walden: C-
Walden was decent against the run, but he once again offered nothing in pass rush. Meanwhile Jerry Hughes is in Buffalo with eight sacks on the season and is one of Pro Football Focus' top 3-4 outside linebackers (subscription required). Sigh.
Jerrell Freeman: B
Freeman has his limitations, but did a much better job of flowing to the hole in the run game this week than he did during the Colts' first game against Tennessee. He finished with nine tackles and also picked up the game-ending interception, his first of the season.
Pat Angerer: C-
Angerer's struggles continue in coverage, as the veteran linebacker continued to give up big plays on crossing patterns over the middle. While Angerer was better in the run game (both inside linebackers were as a product of the defensive line playing better), he still is a liability in coverage.
Vontae Davis: B+
Davis was solid in coverage, blanketing his side of the field for most of the day. He gave up one notable first-down catch in the first half, but wasn't really targeted outside of that. He also came up with a few big tackles in the run game that saved big gains.
Cassius Vaughn: B+
Vaughn was picked on a few times, but managed to come up with two great interceptions, fighting through the receiver to get the pass. The turnovers sparked the Colts and were a big boost to a team that has rarely seen turnovers this season.
Darius Butler: C-
After being promoted to the starting lineup, Butler struggled to contain receivers on the outside. He's much more comfortable inside, and his playing style is one that is prone to bad weeks. He'll have good games and bad games, and this week's was mostly bad.
Antoine Bethea: C
The Colts will have to decide what to do with Bethea after this year, as the veteran safety's contract expires in 2014. Bethea did not impress early in this game, but had an impressive pass breakup and a few strong run stops later in the game to balance it out.
LaRon Landry: C+
Like Bethea, Landry isn't impressing in deep coverage. But he's a missile when asked to blow up screens or short passes as a strong safety-type, and he had a few quick reactions in the Colts' win on Sunday. He hasn't been the big playmaker the Colts hoped, but he's a solid tackler (although he did miss one Sunday) and can be a weapon against the run and short passes.
Adam Vinatieri: A+
The "wiley" veteran was 5-for-5 on the day, four of which came from more than 40 yards out. It doesn't get any better than that. Some people (including myself) thought Vinatieri was going to start declining this year. They were dead wrong. He's been phenomenal, and the Colts likely don't win this game if he misses a kick, or multiple kicks.
Pat McAfee: A-
Well, it wasn't quite as good as Vinatieri's day, but punter Pat McAfee had a strong day as well, consistently flipping the field and getting good hang time inside Lucas Oil Stadium. He finished with over 45 yards per punt, including a 60-yard beauty in the first half. His final punt was a poor one, but his first four were phenomenal. Three went for over 50 yards and the fourth pinned the Titans at their own 13.