The Tennessee Titans nearly found a way to extend their season — even if only for a few minutes of overtime.
Instead, a lost fumble on an exchange between rookie center Kevin Matthews and veteran quarterback Kerry Collins led to Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal as time expired and the Titans lost 23-20 to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“I don’t think anyone expected that type of performance or expected us to have a chance to win the game at the end,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “Unfortunately we didn’t.”
Tennessee had the first significant opportunity to break the 20-20 tie, which had stood for more than a quarter, when safety Michael Griffin recovered a fumble and returned it to the Indianapolis 37 with 1:34 to play.
Two plays later, the Titans committed their only turnover of the contest when Collins failed to come away from center with the ball.
“There’s two turnovers in the game and they take place in three plays,” Fisher said. “That’s clearly the difference. We get the ball back, and if we hang on to it we have a chance to win.”
The Colts drove from their own 38 to the Titans’ 25 in four plays and called their final timeout with three seconds remaining. Vinatieri then came on and made the shortest of his three field goals in the contest.
Prior to that sequence the teams combined for eight straight punts and appeared headed toward overtime.
With the loss, the Titans finished the season with a 6-10 record. The Colts went 10-6 and won the AFC South by two games over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The big question now for Tennessee is whether Fisher will remain as head coach.
“I’m under contract for another year,” he said. “So we’ll see. We’ll come back and have wrap-up physicals [Monday] and start our evaluation process.
“ … I’ve said time and time again that I want to finish my career in Tennessee.”
Tennessee never led but tied it four times, the last on Chris Johnson’s 15-yard touchdown reception with 4:18 to play in the third quarter.
It was the first receiving touchdown of the season for Johnson, who rushed for just 39 yards on 20 carries.
His six receptions (for 51 yards) were second on the team to tight end Jared Cook, who had seven for 58 yards. Wide receiver Kenny Britt added five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown as Collins completed 28 of 39 attempts for a season-high 300 yards with no interceptions.
Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning was 27-for-41 for 264 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.