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Nyheim Hines provides backfield spark for first-place Colts

Trying to find a spark out of the backfield was not supposed to be an issue for the Indianapolis Colts this season. But that’s been the case just about the entire way since starting running back Marlon Mack was injured and lost for the year in Week 1.

Nyheim Hines, for one night at least, did his best to fill that void in a key AFC South game.

On his 24th birthday, Hines had a combined 115 rushing and receiving yards to go with two touchdowns to help the Colts go on the road and beat the Tennessee Titans 34-17 on Thursday night. The victory moved the Colts (6-3) into a first-place tie with the Titans (6-3) in the division.

Hines has been seen as a gadget running back for the Colts because of the different ways they can use him in the backfield or out wide as a receiver.

But the Colts needed Hines more as a runner Thursday because they weren’t getting much production out of the backfield from starter Jonathan Taylor or backup Jordan Wilkins. Taylor and Wilkins combined for just 40 rushing yards. Hines rushed for 70 yards on 12 carries.

Hines’ second touchdown put the Colts ahead for good at 20-17, and was part of a 24-0 run by Indianapolis. He’s the first Colts player to have multiple games in the season with a rushing and receiving touchdown since Joseph Addai did it back in 2009.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Colts, as they play Green Bay (6-2) in Week 11 before hosting the Titans in Week 12.

Promising trend: Welcome to the 100-yard club, Michael Pittman Jr. The Colts, who used their first draft pick on the rookie out of USC, have been hoping they would be able to find some consistency at wide receiver, especially with veteran T.Y. Hilton off to the slowest start of his nine-year career.

Pittman played a significant part in quarterback Philip Rivers' 308 yards passing Thursday. Pittman had seven receptions for a career-high 101 yards. This could be the start of things to come for Pittman, who missed three games earlier this season with a calf injury, because he has the size and speed to be a big target for Rivers.

Being aggressive: It looked as though Indianapolis coach Frank Reich's desire to be aggressive on fourth down might have hurt in this game.

The Colts were stuffed on fourth-and-1 at Tennessee's 29-yard line on their opening drive after the Titans already had a 7-0 lead. Then the Titans stuffed Wilkins again at their own 1-yard line in the third quarter.

That was about the last bad thing to happen to the Colts in the game. Indianapolis was 3-of-5 on fourth down -- with the five fourth-down attempts tying Cincinnati for the NFL high this season.