Titans claim final playoff spot in AFC

Monday, December 31, 2007

Veteran QB Kerry Collins led Tennessee to a 16-10 victory over the Colts.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kerry Collins waited all season to prove his value in Tennessee. The Titans wouldn't have been celebrating Sunday night without him.

Collins rescued his teammates in the most precarious circumstances, leading them to three straight second-half field goals in relief of injured Vince Young and helping Tennessee rally for a 16-10 win at Indianapolis that drew cheers from Nashville and moans from Cleveland.

"Now that I'm older and have been around for a while, I appreciate these things more," said Collins, who turned 35 Sunday. "I told the younger guys to savor it. In my second year, we went to the NFC championship game, I thought we would be going every year, but that didn't happen."

The final piece of the AFC playoff picture came down to the final game on the final weekend of the regular season. Tennessee had to win to make the postseason for the first time since 2003, while an Indy win would have sent the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

Inside the RCA Dome, you could almost hear the groans coming from the shores of Lake Erie when Peyton Manning traded his helmet for a headset early in the second quarter. To the Browns' chagrin, that was how the Colts chose to play.

While Tennessee welcomed the transition from Manning to Jim Sorgi, the Titans were forced into making one of their own when Young flopped down midway through the third quarter with an apparent right quadriceps injury. Young said he hurt it in the first half, then was reinjured in the third quarter.

Enter Collins, who had thrown 69 passes all season and had barely moved off the sideline since Oct. 21.

The veteran backup was efficient, not flashy.

He finished the drive Young started by setting up Rob Bironas for a 40-yard field goal to tie the score, then led the Titans (10-6) on a 58-yard scoring march that gave Bironas a 54-yard attempt. Bironas, who had beaten Indy last December in Nashville with a 60-yarder, curled the kick perfectly inside the right goal post to give Tennessee a 13-10 lead and then sealed it with a 33-yard field goal with 2:56 to go.

Coach Jeff Fisher said he would wait until midweek to decide which quarterback plays Sunday at San Diego. But Collins provided enough against the Colts' backups to end the Titans' playoff drought.

While Colts coach Tony Dungy treated the game as a playoff tuneup, he expected more.

"It was disappointing in a lot of ways," Dungy said. "We really wanted to get that 14th win."

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