NASHVILLE — The Indianapolis Colts may start slow, but they sure know how to finish.
Gardner Minshew threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Michael Pittman with 2:31 left in overtime, and the Colts beat the Tennessee Titans 31-28 Sunday for their fourth straight victory to keep pace in the playoff race in the AFC.
"It's awesome to see our guys fight every single week and just keep finding ways to win," first-year Colts coach Shane Steichen said.
The Colts (7-5) had to score a touchdown after Nick Folk made a 46-yard field goal with 4:19 left in overtime to put Tennessee up 28-25.
Indianapolis came to Nashville holding the seventh and last spot in the AFC playoff standings as the regular season enters its final third. The Colts left town having swept AFC South Division rival Tennessee (4-8) for the first time since 2018.
"It really feels good to beat them back to back because they beat us back to back, and we've been trading off," Pittman said of sweeping the Titans. "So it feels good to give it back to them."
Tennessee lost its first true home game this season and has yet to win consecutive games overall.
The Titans not only blew a 17-7 lead, Folk missed a PAT for the first time this season with 5:26 left in regulation, when his kick could have put Tennessee up 26-25.
Backup quarterback Ryan Tannehill had to fill in on the missed PAT with usual holder and punter Ryan Stonehouse knocked out of the game early in the fourth quarter with an injured left leg. Stonehouse was seen leaving the stadium on crutches with his leg in a full brace.
"Proud of the way that we fought, and we lost," Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said.
He also noted the Titans have to protect their punter.
Special teams helped the Colts score 10 points in the second half. Nick Cross blocked a punt that Grant Stuard returned 18 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter, and then Tony Brown forced a fumble on Stonehouse's next punt attempt, running into his left leg.
Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin noted special teams actually helped impact 11 total points.
"You knock the punter out of the game, they can't kick the extra point," Franklin said. "That's how this game gets to overtime. I told all the young guys, I said 'Look, that's how you know your special teams is really making plays, when they're affecting the outcome of the game.' They stood tall today, for sure."
Minshew threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns as he won his fourth straight game for the first time in his five NFL seasons. Pittman finished with 11 catches for 105 yards with the winning touchdown, and Alec Pierce had three receptions for 100 yards and a score.
The Colts sacked Titans rookie Will Levis six times. Tennessee lost despite holding the ball for more than 38 minutes of game clock and outgaining Indianapolis 381-355 in total offense.
The Colts easily could've turned this into a rout except for their struggles inside the Titans' 10-yard line. The visitors had first-and-goal four times in regulation, only to settle for three of Matt Gay's four field goals. They lost a fumble on another trip.
Gay's fourth field goal, a 28-yarder, came with 11:34 left off Brown's forced fumble on Stonehouse's punt attempt.
"We probably should've won by more points actually, but they are a very well-coached team and it's never easy," Pittman said.
This was a costly loss for the Titans in more ways than one.
Derrick Henry ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns before leaving early in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. He went to the locker room and never returned. The Titans also lost two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons to an injured right knee, and Folk had to punt once Stonehouse was knocked out of the game.
The Titans lost Simmons midway through the third quarter, while tight end Josh Whyle also was knocked out of the game with an injured knee and cornerback Kristian Fulton got hurt, too.
Henry, a two-time NFL rushing champ, moved up the league's career charts as he tied Marshawn Lynch with his first touchdown run of the game. Then he tied Priest Holmes with his second, a 5-yarder early in the second quarter, at No. 15 all-time with the 86th rushing score of his career.
Going to overtime was only the capper on a wild day. The Colts tried for a 2-point conversion after Stuard's touchdown off the blocked punt. Minshew's pass was intercepted by Amani Hooker, who went the distance to give Tennessee two points.
Levis fumbled early trying to pass, and the Titans rookie recovered after Colts safety Julian Blackmon couldn't hold on to the ball.
Folk had to punt twice and averaged 39 yards. The 39-year-old veteran said this was his first punt in the NFL since his college days at Arizona: "I did it in the Pac-10 a long time ago."
Tennessee has a little extra time to prepare for its next game, visiting the Miami Dolphins on Monday, Dec. 11.