Colts, Titans Focus on Rematch Rather Than Records

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Jeff Fisher looks at the Colts and sees all the old angles.

Peyton Manning runs things with meticulous precision and is among the MVP favorites. Indy is undefeated, in charge of the AFC South and chasing the AFC's top seed. The Titans need a win to keep their playoff hopes going.

Sound familiar? This is how things looked eight weeks ago when Tennessee and Indy last met in Nashville, except that now the Colts are on the brink of tying the NFL record for most consecutive regular-season victories (21).

"The only difference is they've won six more games since we played them last time," Fisher said. "They still had a consecutive regular-season win streak going and they pushed it further. They are a very, very good football team."

The numbers demonstrate how good the Colts have been.

A victory Sunday would allow Indy (11-0) to equal New England's record streak, set from 2006-08, a stretch that included two Patriots postseason losses, including one to the Colts. It would also allow Indy to extend its own record of consecutive 12-win seasons to seven, extend Jim Caldwell's record for consecutive wins to start a coaching career to 12, and move the Colts a step closer to their next goal, earning a first-round playoff bye.

But there's one fact that shows the Colts could be susceptible to an old rival that has given them problems in the past: Indy's last five wins have all come with fourth-quarter comebacks.

"That's something we'd like to do a better job of, scoring early," Manning said. "You always want to try and get the lead and keep the lead, and that's something we need to improve upon. This would be a good week to do it."

Nobody, not even Fisher, can quibble with the results.

Indianapolis' good fortune seems to have rubbed off on the Titans coach. After donning Manning's No. 18 jersey at an October fundraiser, Fisher said he did it to "feel like a winner." Tennessee (5-6) hasn't lost since, becoming the first NFL team to follow a six-game skid with a five-game winning streak. Another win Sunday, in Indy, would make Tennessee the fifth team since 1970 to post a six-game winning streak and a six-game losing streak in the same season.

Clearly, these are two of the hottest teams -- and quarterbacks -- in the league.

Indy and Tennessee have combined for 16 straight wins, the most of any teams meeting in Week 13 since 1984. Manning has won its 20 straight, of course, and Vince Young, who rejoined the starting lineup five weeks ago, now has nine wins in a row.

All of which makes this usually intriguing matchup between the only teams with AFC South titles -- Indy six, Tennessee two -- even more interesting.

"The thing I always found amazing is how they were ever 0-6," Manning said. "To me, they are playing now like what you're used to seeing and, really, what I've always thought they would be."

What the Titans do best is run and defend.

Chris Johnson has six straight 100-yard games and with 125 yards Sunday, he would become the first player in league history with 125 in six straight games. He's averaging an incredible 6.4 yards per carry.

Young produced the kind of comeback last week that would have made Manning proud, taking the Titans 99 yards in 2:37 to keep the winning streak intact.

The defense has improved, too.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan and defensive back Vincent Fuller have played in all five victories after sitting out with injuries, and cornerback Nick Harper returned two weeks ago after breaking his right forearm in the first Indy game. Tennessee has yielded just 17 points in each of its last three games.

It's not the same team Manning saw in the first game.

"Now, the majority of their secondary will be healthy again, somewhat of a different defensive team that we will be facing (now)," he said.

The names aren't the only things that have changed.

The victories have helped Tennessee regain its swagger and have fans contemplating another playoff appearance. Despite the poor start, only seven AFC teams -- the four division leaders, Jacksonville, Baltimore and Pittsburgh -- have more wins than the Titans.

Indy understands how much this game will mean to Tennessee, too.

A year ago, with the Titans carrying the unbeaten record and the Colts starting 3-4, Indy closed the season with nine straight wins to reach the playoffs.

Now the Titans want to follow Indy's lead.

"We're trying to get to .500 in December," Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "It's probably a bigger game for us. It might make for a bigger story if we go in there and knock them off and get to six in a row. Things will start looking very Christmasy around here."

But there's another reason Bulluck wants to win this one. The last team to beat Indianapolis was Tennessee, 31-21 on Oct. 27, 2008, and rather than being a duplicate answer to a trivia question, the Titans would prefer to be remembered as the bookends on Indy's winning streak.

"I was trying to avoid all that," Bulluck said. "It would be great. They started it here and for us to end it. Normally my focus would be on that. But I think we've got something good going. We've got to focus on the task at hand."

The Colts feel the same way.

"You've seen a lot of great records during the regular season," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. "What really counts in this league is one ultimate goal. That is to win it all. Going undefeated during the regular season has never been a high priority."

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