Colts turns focus to offseason after 30-24 win over Titans
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The lobbying has already begun in Indianapolis and Tennessee.
Shortly after the Colts' two recently-signed quarterbacks each threw for a touchdown in a 30-24 season-ending victory over Tennessee, players from both teams urged their owners to keep the coaches. They'll find out soon enough.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he expects to meet with team owner Jim Irsay on Monday about his future, while Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey plans to have his regular Monday phone call with controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.
''I told him (Pagano) I love him,'' longtime Indy pass-rusher Robert Mathis said. ''I don't know what the future holds. I just got to let him know how I felt about him.''
Pagano's supporters were all around Lucas Oil Stadium.
After winning the last two games with four different quarterbacks, two of whom were signed Tuesday and made their season debut against the Titans (3-13), Pagano pointed to the loud fans and tapped his heart as he neared the tunnel.
Josh Freeman went 15 of 28 with 149 yards, one TD and one interception in his first start since October 2013. Ryan Lindley was 6 of 10 with 58 yards and threw an 18-yard TD pass to Andre Johnson just before halftime to give Indy the lead for good at 20-14. Jerrell Freeman's 23-yard interception return sealed it early in the third quarter.
Now comes the hard part - making decisions about the coaches.
Indy (8-8) avoided its first losing season since 2011 but didn't get enough help to make the playoffs. Houston clinched the AFC South title with a 30-6 win over Jacksonville.
Pagano supporters believe he should be rewarded for a 41-23 record, making three straight playoff appearances and still managing to stay this year's playoff hunt until the final day after losing Andrew Luck for nine games. Others look at the mediocre division.
Pagano made it clear, he wants to stay
So does Mularkey, who went 2-7 after replacing Ken Whisenhunt and lost his last four to secure the No. 1 draft pick. Nobody in the Titans' locker room was happy with that, but they do believe Mularkey deserves another shot.
''I think he has a plan in place,'' running back David Cobb said. ''He's had an opportunity twice to be a head coach, and I think he's learned from the things he said were his mistakes. The good thing is, he has a franchise quarterback to work with.''
Now Pagano and Mularkey must wait to see if their owners agree.
Here are some other things we learned Sunday:
CHANGES ARE COMING: The coaches aren't the only ones who could lose jobs. The two general managers might not be safe, and personnel changes will be coming, too, especially along the struggling offensive lines.
BACKUPS MATTER: The Colts won five games this season with 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck and this time with Freeman. Amazingly, Hasselbeck and Freeman combined to win three times as many games (six) as Andrew Luck (two). Tennessee backup Zach Mettenberger was 5 of 13 for 38 yards with one interception Sunday and fell to 0-10 as a starter.
RUNNING MEN: With the backup quarterbacks on center stage, both teams tried to get something out of their ground games. Frank Gore finished the season strong, rushing for 161 yards in his final two games - enough to become the 15th player in league history with 12,000 yards but 36 yards short of becoming Indy's first 1,000-yard back since 2007. Cobb, a rookie, rushed 19 times for 73 yards and scored his first pro touchdown.
WALKER'S WORLD: Delanie Walker might have had the best performance in Tennessee's abysmal season. With nine catches for 94 yards against the Colts, he became the first tight end in franchise history with a 1,000-yard season and the ninth tight end in league history with 90 or more catches. Walker finished this season with 94 catches and 1,088 yards and should be a pillar the Titans can build around.
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