INDIANAPOLIS – Cassius Vaughn said he was getting a little tired of Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker's “dink and dunk” passes.
Vaughn did something about it, and changed a game in the process. Vaughn's touchdown interception return in the third quarter gave the Indianapolis Colts their first lead en route to a 27-23 win over the Titans on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. The win moved the Colts to 9-4 and kept the playoff hopes alive and well.
Vaughn's play came after a Pat McAfee punt pinned the Titans at their own 1-yard line.
“I got my hands on (Locker's pass) and got it in,” Vaughn said. “We felt like that was the turning point in the game.”
The Titans felt that momentum shift, too.
“That's a bad decision by Jake and a bad decision by us to even put him in that situation,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “That's my fault. Looking back, we wouldn't have done it that way.”
Vaughn later credited the Indianapolis' offense's previous third-quarter drive as a major turning point. That's a viable point, too, as Andrew Luck rebounded from a rough first half to direct a 14-play, 80-yard drive to cut Tennessee's lead to 20-14 to open the third quarter.
Adam Vinatieri ultimately delivered the winning points with 53- and 40-yard field goals in the fourth quarter. The latter was set up by an interception by Colts cornerback Darius Butler.
Luck had a rough first half, in which he threw a pick-six to Will Witherspoon while being sacked from behind. A replay appeared to show Luck's knee was down, but the ruling of a Titans touchdown was upheld.
“I probably deserved a pick-six for trying to throw a football in that position,” Luck said.
Later, Luck passed Peyton Manning for the most yards passing by a Colts rookie in a season. Luck threw for 196 yards Sunday to reach 3,792 yards. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton set the NFL rookie record last season with 4,051 yards.
Meanwhile, Colts receiver Reggie Wayne moved into the NFL's Top 10 in career pass receptions.
The most important statistic, of course, was the fact the Colts won their ninth game heading into road games at Houston and Kansas City and a final home game against Houston.
The Colts are two games up on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals for the top wildcard playoff spot.
“It'd be nice to not have one of these every once in a while,” Wayne said. “But one thing it does, it gets us ready if we are lucky enough to get in the playoffs. It gets us battle-tested. We know if we do get down, we're capable of coming back.”