Colts' backups sharp against Titans in final tuneup before playoffs

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts achieved everything they wanted Sunday.

Peyton Manning reached 4,000 passing yards. Marvin Harrison became the NFL's No. 2 all-time receiver. Dallas Clark broke a 42-year-old franchise record. And the Colts won their 12th game for a sixth straight season, extending their NFL record.

Four downs

» The Colts won their ninth straight game, completing their sixth straight season with 12-plus wins (extends NFL record).

» Colts QB Peyton Manning recorded his ninth 4,000-passing-yard season (extends NFL record).

» Colts TE Dallas Clark finished the season with 848 receiving yards, breaking John Mackey's franchise single-season record of 829, set in 1966.

» The Titans were shut out for the first time since Nov. 7, 1999 (17-0 loss to Miami Dolphins).

Indianapolis followed coach Tony Dungy's season-ending script to perfection, knocking out the individual milestones quickly enough for the starters to rest, and the backups put away the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans 23-0.

"We wanted to play well and get off to a fast start with our first unit, and we did that," Dungy said. "I'm proud of our guys and the way they played. I like where we are, and I think we'll be ready next week."

Now the Colts head West, to either Denver or San Diego, for a first-round playoff game next week against the AFC West champions. Indianapolis is seeded fifth and couldn't improve its playoff position Sunday.

But the Colts (12-4) still played well enough to win their ninth straight game. They have beaten the Chargers and the AFC North and South champions during the streak and enter the playoffs with their first shutout since Dec. 14, 1997.

They even did it despite deactivating eight key players, including safety Bob Sanders, last season's defensive player of the year. The Titans (13-3) managed just 125 yards of offense and had only one first down in the first half.

Part of the reason was that Tennessee followed a similarly cautious strategy. Coach Jeff Fisher put eight starters on the inactive list and yanked quarterback Kerry Collins after just three plays.

With nothing to gain after locking up the AFC's top seed last week, Fisher simply tried to avoid showing too much.

"They're playing very, very well, but there's a chance we may play them again, so we just lined up and played today," he said.

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The disparity between the teams, though, was stark.

Manning was 7-of-7 passing for 95 yards with one touchdown and a perfect rating of 158.3, extending his NFL record of 4,000-yard seasons to nine before leaving after one series. Dan Marino is second all-time with six 4,000-yard seasons.

Clark broke the franchise season record for receiving yards by a tight end, catching six passes for 59 yards. He finished with 848 yards, surpassing Hall of Famer John Mackey's 829 in 1966.

Harrison caught seven passes for 31 yards, passing Cris Carter (1,101) for second all-time, and now has 1,102.

Indianapolis' backups were productive, too.

Jim Sorgi, Manning's replacement, finished 22-of-30 passing for 178 yards and gave his toddler son, who was attending his first game, something to remember. Sorgi led the Colts on four scoring drives and helped the Colts take control.

The Titans watched Manning move the Colts 90 yards on the opening possession, ending it with a nifty 55-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Addai, who lined up as a receiver. That made it 7-0 with 9:12 to go in the first quarter.

Things only got worse for Tennessee.

The Titans nearly lost a fumble on their first play, and Indianapolis fans wanted intentional grounding called on the second. After punting, Tennessee didn't touch the ball again for more than 13 minutes.

Adam Vinatieri connected on two short field goals to make it 13-0, and his third, a 38-yarder late in the first half, gave Indianapolis a 16-0 lead and sealed Tennessee's fate.

The Titans had only one real scoring chance, but Rob Bironas pushed a 48-yard field-goal attempt to the right.

And the Colts wrote a perfect ending to a perfect second-half comeback.

"They're all special," said Dungy, who was photographed with his family at game's end. "But we really wanted to get that 12th win. It was a great way to end this season at home."

Notes: Dungy said not to read anything into the photo-op, although he still intends to ponder retirement when this season ends. ... For the first time since 2003, the Colts had more punts in a season than touchdowns. ... Bironas' miss ended a stretch of 12 straight successful field-goal attempts, dating to Nov. 9. ... The Colts allowed just six touchdown passes this season, the fewest in a 16-game NFL season. ... Titans linebacker Josh Stamer hurt his groin. ... Titans third-string QB Chris Simms played for the first time in 26 months in the fourth quarter.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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