Colts avoid making the wrong kind of history

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Colts avoid making the wrong kind of history

From Comcast SportsNet

INDIANAPOLIS (AP)The Indianapolis Colts piled up wins for more than a decade. Their victory Sunday might go down as one of their most memorable.

After 14 straight losses, 50 weeks without a win and 14 years between non-Peyton Manning victories, the Colts dont have to worry about 0-16 anymore. Theyre 1-13.

Dan Orlovsky threw a touchdown pass and had the key block to spring an 80-yard touchdown run that sealed Indianapolis 27-13 victory over Tennessee, giving Orlovsky the first win of his NFL career.

To finally get one, and in the aspect of a lot of certain situations, it feels great, Orlovsky said. Im very humbled to be a part of it. Im happy for a lot of people on this team, for a lot of people in this organization. It is a lot better than the feeling we have had lately.

And for a change, the Colts had plenty to smile about.

Orlovsky had lost his nine previous NFL starts including the season-finale in Detroits 0-16 season. Hes the first quarterback not named Manning to win a game for the Colts since December 1997 when Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback.

Brown ran 16 times for a career-high 161 yards, tying Tom Mattes franchise record for longest run, set in 1964. The breakout performance might also temporarily quiet some of Browns biggest critics, who have labeled him a first-round draft bust.

Indys much-maligned defense forced three turnovers, scored a touchdown on Jacob Laceys 32-yard interception return and stopped Tennessee (7-7) on fourth down with less than 2 minutes left so Orlovsky could run out the clock with the traditional kneel-down.

Even coach Jim Caldwell got some support.

I just want to say how happy I am for Coach Caldwell, our coaching staff and for our players for how diligently and spectacularly theyve worked and prepared through all this difficulty, team vice chairman Bill Polian said.

But the celebration was muted. After the last defensive stop, Indys players and coaches simply raised their arms as the remaining fans cheered loudly.

The good news was that Colts avoided becoming the first team in franchise history to go 0-14.

The bad news: Theyre still playing for the No. 1 draft pick, which goes to the team with the worst overall record and will have to do it without Manning. Polian ruled him out of the last two games just minutes after the victory.

It (winning) means a lot, but were a proud ballclub so one game out of 13 or 14, we still have a ways to go, defensive end Robert Mathis said. Everybody held the fort today. We just kept chopping wood and the tree fell today.

For Tennessee, its an inexplicable loss that could keep them out of the playoffs.

By closing the season with three straight wins, the Titans could have controlled their own destiny. Now, theyll probably have to win their last two and get help.

In the first half, we played uninspired football on the offensive side of the ball and we still had a 6-3 lead because the defense played very well, Titans coach Mike Munchak said. You have to run the football and we couldnt. Not only could we not run it, we were losing yards and that put us in a tough spot. The turnovers start creeping in and (Jared) Cook fumbles the one that couldve been the chance to get something going then the interception happened. Thats really what killed us.

There were plenty of other problems, too.

Matt Hasselbeck returned from his calf injury but didnt play well, finishing 27 of 40 for 223 yards with no TDs and two interceptions. Chris Johnson ran 15 times for 55 yards. And when Jake Locker got the Titans back in the game after relieving Hasselbeck, the defense couldnt corral Brown.

Lockers 7-yard TD pass to Nate Washington with 3:43 left got the Titans to 20-13.

But on Indys next offensive play, Tennessees defense appeared to have Brown cornered in the backfield. Thats when Brown reversed field and Orlovsky jumped in front of the defender closest to him, running a basketball pick. It was just enough to get Brown a wide-open lane, and he sprinted right through it 80 yards for Indys longest run since Matte in 1964.

He was about to go down. Akeem Ayers came in there for the tackle. Donald just got out of it. I went in for the tackle, and the quarterback cut me off, safety Michael Griffin said. From there I dont know what happened, but we have to tackle better.

Indy opened the scoring with a 47-yard field goal that ended a of more than 500 minutes in which the Colts never had the lead

Rob Bironas answered with two field goals before halftime to give the Titans the 6-3 lead.

This time, Indy needed only about 10 minutes to retake the lead. Orlovskys 18-yard TD pass to Reggie Wayne made it 10-6. Lacey followed that with his interception return and Vinatieri made it 20-6 after Indy forced a punt following a muffed kickoff that went out of bounds inside the 1.

Lockers TD put the game back in doubt, but Brown wrapped it up with the long run.

You just feel like a dark cloud has been removed for the time being, of course, the excited Mathis said. Back to work Tuesday, trying to do it again.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.