When both delivered throwback performances Sunday, it lifted the Indianapolis Colts closer to the playoffs.
Vinatieri, the oldest player in the league tied a career-high with five field goals, four from 45 yards or longer. Brown, the Colts' forgotten 2009 first-round pick, scored on a 4-yard TD run with 1:56 left to give Indianapolis a 22-14 victory over Tennessee.
"Those are by no means chip shots," Andrew Luck said after another troubling offensive showing with only 264 total yards. "To have a guy like that (Vinatieri), it, well, it really makes a difference."
It hasn't been easy reaching this point, especially after losing five offensive starters with season-ending injuries, and with Trent Richardson struggling.
So coach Chuck Pagano shook up things after two blowout losses in the last three weeks. He surprised many by moving Brown into the starting lineup ahead of Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012 by Cleveland who Indy traded for in September. Pagano replaced Mike McGlynn at right guard with Jeff Linkenbach and also started cornerback Darius Butler ahead of Cassius Vaughn.
"I guess it was time to put something together and with the division hanging in the balance, the guys manned up," Pagano said, explaining that Brown earned a rare start and the two backs would both continue rotate. "Just like the first game down there, we were able to run the ball, chew up the clock."
They needed Vinatieri even more than Brown.
The soon-to-be 41-year-old resembled his much younger self, tying a career high with four field goals in the first half and matching his full-game career high when he hit a perfect 49-yarder for a 15-14 lead late in the third quarter. His fifth field goal also equaled Jason Elam's NFL record with a 16th 100-point season, and he joined Morten Andersen as the only players to score 800 points with two teams.
To Vinatieri, it was just another work day.
"You never know how it's going to go, and you don't know how you're going to be needed and used," he said. "Today was one of those days that I was needed and used a bunch."
Luck was just 17 of 32 for 200 yards with no TDs and one interception.
"I didn't play well. We had a shot at the end there," Fitzpatrick said. "I didn't get the job done, and it hurts. For me to come out and not play well hurts."
The miscues proved costly.
Tennessee gave away three points just before halftime when Moise Fokou's personal foul extended the half by one play. Vinatieri cashed in with a 37-yarder.
"It puts us in a spot now where we've got to win four games in a row," coach Mike Munchak said. "We have no control of what that may or may not mean."
Fitzpatrick was picked off two more times before Brown sealed it with his strong run up the middle.
"Pros grind it out," Brown said. "They take it one week at a time and just keep rolling along."
NOTES: The Titans lost two more tight ends Sunday. Delanie Walker left with a concussion in the first quarter and Collin Mooney was taken by golf cart into the locker room with what appeared to be a left leg injury in the second half. ... Indy defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (sprained foot) and running back Daniel "Boom" Herron (strained pectoral) should have MRIs on Sunday night, Pagano said. ... Kicker Rob Bironas joined Al Del Greco as the only Titans in the NFL's 1,000-point club.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press