INDIANAPOLIS – Tennessee safety Kevin Byard promised to do everything he could to redeem himself after a late pass interference call in the end zone Sunday.
The veteran delivered on the third series of overtime.
Byard picked off Carson Wentz in Colts territory, setting up Randy Bullock for a 44-yard field goal and capping a frantic final 7 1/2 minutes with a critical 34-31 victory at Indianapolis.
“I was actually on the sideline preparing my speech if the game would have gone the other way," he said. “We’re resilient. We’re going to keep swinging, and I was able to make a play at the end and I’m just happy we won the game."
Byard thought he blew it when he was called for a 42-yard penalty that allowed the Colts to tie the score with 22 seconds left in regulation. Turns out, everyone forgot just a few minutes later when he came up with a game-turning interception that may prove to be the biggest play all season for the Titans (6-2).
Tennessee has won four straight overall, three straight in the series and now has a commanding lead over the Colts (3-5) in the AFC South courtesy of the third season sweep in this series in franchise history for Tennessee.
Those two plays typified a day when the teams combined for five turnovers, a plethora of hard hits and wild swings, two touchdowns in the final 86 seconds of regulation, and 20 penalties.
“They need to blow the whistle. It’s a player safety issue. Jeff (Simmons) is coached and has been taught to run to the football until the whistle, and there were far too many guys on that tackle not to blow the whistle sooner," coach Mike Vrabel said, referring to one defensive penalty before turning his attention to a replay challenge. “I think it’s mind boggling I have to challenge a catch that A.J. Brown makes in the middle of the field. There’s seven officials and there’s a replay official and I have to pull the flag out and throw it at that point in time?"
But on the first play, quarterback Carson Wentz was flushed from the pocket and tried to flick the ball away left-handed from the end zone. Instead, rookie Elijah Molden snatched the fluttering ball out of midair and scored on a 2-yard interception return for a 31-24 lead — the first pick-six for Tennessee in 38 games.
“Terrible play, terrible play," Wentz said. “I was about to go down and was thinking just throw it, don’t force it. That one I’m so mad at myself for, I'm beating myself up."
Wentz shook it off quickly, though.
On the ensuing series, he found Michael Pittman Jr. for 38 yards on third down to get the ball across midfield. Then Byard was called for the penalty and Jonathan Taylor walked in for the tying 1-yard score.
Byard didn't fret long.
When Wentz tried to throw a pass across his body on the third overtime series, Byard sprinted in front of Pittman, made the play on the ball and took it to the Colts 32. Four plays later, the game ended.
“I’ve been in a lot of wild games, but this is definitely a memorable one," Byard said.
Tennessee trailed 14-0 midway through the first quarter but turned things around quickly in the second. The key play came when Colts defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis picked off Ryan Tannehill near midfield then fumbled it away on the return while hurting his right knee. The Titans recovered and Tannehill threw the tying 57-yard TD pass to A.J. Brown on the next play.
Titans: Receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) sat out along with linebacker Rashaan Evans (ankle) senior defensive assistant coach Jim Schwartz (COVID-19 protocols). Right guard Nate Davis and S Dane Cruikshank were evaluated for concussions during the game and Tannehill missed the final play of regulation but returned.
Colts: Receiver T.Y. Hilton (quadriceps) returned to the lineup but left in the fourth quarter after hitting his head hard on the ground and being diagnosed with a concussion. Lewis was carted off the field late in the first half and safety Khari Willis (calf) did not finish the game.
Titans: Tannehill was 22 of 33 with 265 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. ... Receiver A.J. Brown had 10 catches for 155 yards and a 57-yard TD catch late in the first half. ... NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry had 28 carries for 68 yards, ending a four-game streak of 100-yard games against the Colts. ... Tennessee has won six straight division games and is 15-6 on the road since 2019.
Colts: Wentz had thrown just one interception all season until throwing two in the final 7 1/2 minutes. He was 27 of 51 with 231 yards, three TDs and two interceptions, ending his franchise-record tying streak of four games with multiple TD passes and no interceptions. ... Pittman had 10 catches for 86 yards and two scores, both in the first 7 1/2 minutes. ... Taylor carried 16 times for 70 yards and had three receptions for 52 yards.
Titans: visit the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday.
Colts: host the New York Jets on Thursday night.
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