INDIANAPOLIS — Donald Brown's forehead was dotted with a good-sized red welt and a spot of blood in the Lucas Oil Stadium locker room on Sunday — a souvenir from his first start of the season.
The Indianapolis Colts running back's look matched his playing style, rough and gritty. He gained just 54 yards on 14 carries against the Tennessee Titans, but his 4-yard touchdown run with 1:56 remaining in the fourth quarter sealed the 22-14 victory.
A day later, during a media conference call, he was far more excited about playing at the end of the game than at the beginning.
"I'm very grateful for (the start), but I'm more concerned with finishing strong and playing well," Brown said. "It doesn't matter who starts the game, it's how you finish."
The Colts' finish was spectacular. A surprising exclamation point at the end of a long and often ugly performance.
Indianapolis (8-4) led 15-14 with 8:08 remaining in the game after veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri tied a career high with five successful field goals. When the Colts took possession at their own 8-yard line following a Tennessee punt, they'd gained just 26 rushing yards on 16 carries.
But Indianapolis ran the ball nine times on the ensuing 11-play drive, with Brown's number being called on six occasions. He gained 46 yards, including a burst through the middle of the line and into the end zone on the final play.
It was a march that seemed completely out of place with the rest of the game. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
"The offensive line did a great job, and when our number is called, that was a challenge to us," Brown said. "We needed to grind the clock out. We needed to score a touchdown. That's what you practice for. That's what your mindset has to be if you want to be a successful running team."