EditorsNote: Corrects Luck’s TD total, updates with more on Mariota injury, minor edits throughout
Andrew Luck threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns Sunday night as the Indianapolis Colts claimed the AFC’s final playoff spot with a 33-17 win over the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
Luck, who completed 24 of 35 passes, finished the regular season with 39 touchdown passes, the most for a player who missed the previous season. He also enabled Indianapolis (10-6) to cap a comeback from a 1-5 start and earn a trip to AFC South champion and divisional foe Houston for a wild-card round game on Saturday.
Tennessee (9-7) snapped a nine-year playoff drought last year with a home win over Jacksonville in Week 17, but wasn’t able to repeat the feat this time. The short-handed Titans played without quarterback Marcus Mariota (stinger, plantar fascia) and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (knee), and their absences were clearly felt.
Blaine Gabbert replaced Mariota and threw for 165 yards on 18-fo-29 passing, but also tossed two interceptions. The first was to Kenny Moore, kneecapping a promising drive near midfield with 9:05 remaining in the game.
The Colts cashed it in with a 25-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri with 3:55 left to give them a two-score cushion at 27-17. Marlon Mack tacked on an 8-yard touchdown run with 2:24 remaining, though Vinatieri missed the PAT.
Casey’s injury left a massive gap in the interior defense that Indianapolis exploited with consistency. Besides Luck’s passing, the Colts also pounded out 158 yards on 36 carries, enabling them to possess the ball for more than 40 minutes.
Indianapolis established a 14-0 second-quarter lead after marching 92 and 90 yards on its first two possessions. Luck hit Dontrelle Inman and Eric Ebron for 11- and 9-yard scoring strikes, respectively.
Luck’s one mistake came the next time he touched the ball. Pressure up the middle led to a forced throw into the left flat that Jayon Brown intercepted and returned 22 yards for a touchdown with 6:35 left in the half to make it 14-7.
Vinatieri and Ryan Succop exchanged field goals in the last minute of the half to make it 17-10 Colts. Luck upped the margin to 24-10 on a 1-yard scoring strike to Ryan Hewitt little more than four minutes into the third quarter.
Gabbert found Luke Stocker for a 22-yard touchdown at the 1:47 mark of the third to shave the deficit in half, but that was it for Tennessee.
—Field Level Media