NASHVILLE, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Steve McNair outdueled Peyton Manning Sunday and led the Tennessee Titans into a share of the lead in the AFC South with a 27-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
A hero in Tennessee after shattering all of the passing records with the Volunteers, Manning is shooting for the second division title of his five-year NFL career. A win Sunday would have given the Colts (8-5) a two-game lead over Tennessee, but Manning struggled with three interceptions.
"You always want to be on top and in control of your own fate and right now we got to get some help," Colts Coach Tony Dungy said. "That's disappointing. That's going to be tough on us, but all we can do right now is try to win our last three and we'll see where that takes us."
The Titans forced Manning into his share of mistakes and McNair completed 19 of 23 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown, helping Tennessee (8-5) beat Indianapolis for the second time this season and garner a share of the division lead with the head-to-head advantage in the tiebreaker.
Eddie George also scored on a pair of short runs for the Titans, who won for the seventh time in their last eight games.
"It's big as far as playoffs," said George. "It was all about the tiebreaker."
The Titans have bounced back from a 1-4 start.
"We always preach that we have to start fast and in the past couple of years we haven't started fast," McNair said. "We haven't given up, though. We learned to take it one game at a time and build on our record. We knew that we had some games later in the season that we could win and we stepped up and won them.
"Now we're right back in the playoff race."
Manning passed for 296 yards and a touchdown, but Indianapolis had its four-game winning streak stopped.
"They play us differently than they play other teams," said Manning, who has lost his last three meetings against the Titans. "They have a lot of different looks and different packages."
"It's very, very difficult to get Peyton Manning in blitz situations with the four-man rush because he's so good at getting rid of the football," Titans Coach Jeff Fisher said. "I thought our defensive staff did a great job all week. We changed some things. You have to give him an ever changing look. We had a different configuration of personnel on the field and I thought they did a good job."
One of the most physical teams in the NFL, the Titans made an early statement, going 72 yards on seven plays on the game's first drive.
McNair, George and Robert Holcombe each had key runs on the drive. But McNair capped the drive by using a pump-fake and finding rookie back John Simon, who ran by safety David Gibson for a 42-yard touchdown.
Meanwhile, Manning had his first drive end with a mistake when linebacker Keith Bulluck made a leaping interception at the line of scrimmage just inside his own territory.
Tennesse dominated the opening quarter, garnering a 130-28 advantage in total yards while allowing Manning to complete just one pass.
McNair, who missed practice for the second straight week due to sore ribs, engineered an 11-play, 64-yard drive at the end of the first quarter. He had an 11-yard pass to tight end Frank Wycheck on third and 11 and an 18-yard connection to Derrick Mason to the Indianapolis 25.
George capped the drive 1:22 into the second quarter, barrelling up the middle for a seven-yard touchdown to give Tennessee a 14-0 advantage.
Manning finally got things going on the ensuing drive, capping a five-play, 69-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marcus Pollard with 10:46 left in the half.
But the Titans answered with an 11-play, 68-yard drive, with McNair once again coming up big.
McNair had completions of 23 yards and 16 yards to Mason and a 10-yard connection with Wycheck to the Indianapolis three. Mason had six catches for 77 yards.
"His play speaks for itself," Fisher said about his quarterback. "It is hard to describe what he is doing. The offensive staff is giving him a chance to make plays. We are spreading people out more than we have been. He has a good comfort level with people around him."