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Colts 23, Titans 20

Colts veteran Adam Vinatieri hits a 43-yard field goal as time expires to seal Indianapolis’ ninth straight 10-win season.

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Colts veteran Adam Vinatieri hits a 43-yard field goal as time expires to seal Indianapolis’ ninth straight 10-win season.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Colts are back in the playoffs.

Peyton Manning threw two touchdowns, the defense limited Chris Johnson to 39 yards rushing and the always clutch Adam Vinatieri hit a 43-yard field goal as time expired Sunday to give the Colts a 23-20 victory over the Titans.

Indianapolis earned its seventh — and most improbable — AFC South title in eight seasons by winning its fourth straight after an unusual 6-6 start.

"We know what they were up against and how difficult it was and to overcome all that and win the division, it is extra special," owner Jim Irsay said.

The Colts tied Dallas' NFL record of nine consecutive playoff appearances, from 1975-83.

Manning set a mark for completions in a season (450), established hours earlier by Drew Brees against the Bucs.

Indy became the third team since 2000 to lose a Super Bowl and return to the playoffs the next year — all despite having 17 players on injured reserve.

The reward: a Saturday night showdown at home with the Jets in a rematch of last year's AFC title game. Indy earned the No. 3 seed thanks to Kansas City's 31-10 loss to Oakland.

Titans quarterback Kerry Collins fumbled a snap and Colts defensive end Robert Mathis recovered at the Colts 38, setting up Vinatieri's winner.

"They're never the same and you never take them lightly," Vinatieri said.

Collins (300 yards) passed John Unitas for 11th on the career passing list. Collins has 40,441 yards. Unitas had 40,239.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher told the TV broadcast crew he expected a quick decision to be made about his job status and later said he hoped to return. He has been on the job 17 seasons, most in the league among active head coaches at one job.

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Colts 23, Titans 20 01/02/11 [Last modified: Sunday, January 2, 2011 11:14pm]
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