The 6-3 Indianapolis Colts traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to face the 4-5 Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football in Week 11. Bad teams were coming off bad losses in Week 10. The Colts got shellacked by the St. Louis Rams while the Titans handed the Jacksonville Jaguars their first win. The Titans jumped out in front of the Colts early on due in large part to a Colts meltdown on one drive but the Colts came roaring back to win the game 30-27. How did that happen? Let’s take a look.
The Titans lost quarterback Jake Locker for the season with a lis franc injury to his right foot, but backup and current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick played his best game of the season against the Colts, completing 22 of 28 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. Fitzpatrick added 4 scrambles for 26 yards. Fitzpatrick finished with a passer rating of of 111.6 and a very nice 7.9 yards per pass average. He has played very nicely since taking over the reins again for the Titans. To the coaching staff’s credit, they ran an uptempo no huddle offense featuring Fitzpatrick in the shotgun a lot which allowed him to get rid of the ball a lot faster. It also prepared the offense for tough trips to Oakland, Indianapolis and Denver.
The Titans started off running the ball very well, and despite many thinking they abandoned the run game they simply did not. The Titans ran the ball 20 times if you subtract the Fitzpatrick scrambles while throwing the ball 28 times. For sure, they didn’t run the ball much in the second half for several reasons and not at all on the final drive but the Titans run game in the 4th quarter was generating none to negative yards and they couldn’t afford the negative plays. The last 3 drives produced a field goal, a punt and a Fitzpatrick to Delanie Walker touchdown.
More on the run game and I have pointed this out before, but one of the reasons the run game stalled in the second half was Chris Johnson’s bad habit of not following his blockers. He did very well in the first half but reverted to his bad habit of bouncing outside and trying to take on linebackers in matchups he simply cannot win anymore. Granted, Johnson finished with 17 carries for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns and averaged 5.1 yards per carry but in the second half of the Colts game he had 4 carries for 6 yards for a 1.5 yards per carry average. Shonn Greene rushed 3 times for 10 yards for a 3.3 yards per carry average. He had a carry in the second half that went for no gain too.
The Titans offensive line has been criticized and rightfully so but the last few games I thought they played better. The Titans are without rookie center Brian Schwenke and right tackle David Stewart is banged up as is his replacement but the guard play was much better against the Colts. Rookie Chance Warmack has struggled but there is reason to believe the light bulb is finally going off for the young man. He got his first overall positive grades since Week 1 against the Colts.
Fitzpatrick very obviously trusts Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright and tight end Delanie Walker as they were by far the most targeted receivers against the Colts with a combined 22 targets. The combined targets for those not named Wright and Walker? A whopping six. Wright finished with 9 catches for 80 yards but he had 2 bad drops (12 targets). Nate Washington caught 2 passes for 53 yards (3 targets). Justin Hunter was targeted once and was clearly held but there was no penalty called. Hunter did throw a nice block on a Delanie Walker reception to allow him to pick up extra yards. Hunter sustained a concussion in the game and did not finish. He only played 15 snaps.
The big issue for the offense was the lack of offensive snaps due to the defense being unable to get off the field and (stop me if you have heard this before) another special teams gaffe when new returner Devon Wylie fumbled a kick off return after the Colts scored a touchdown on their first drive in the third quarter. The Titans ran 6 offensive plays in the third quarter and one was a 3 and out. The second was a drive that continued into the fourth quarter resulting in a Rob Bironas field goal. That drive might have resulted in a touchdown but Titans backup center Chris Spencer was called for a holding penalty.
The big issue in the game and as I discussed last Friday night on The Extra Point the Titans run defense going back 4 games has been terrible. The Titans have given up 9 touchdowns from inside the 11 yard line which is an absolutely pathetic statistic. The Titans are letting running backs run all over them and allowed Colts running back Donald Brown to rush for 80 yards on 14 carries for a 5.7 yards per carry average and 2 touchdowns. The first was a 6 yard run in the 3rd quarter and then the dagger run of 11 yards out at 3:01 in the 4th. They have to correct that issue quick or they stand no chance to win football games.
The pass defense remains pretty decent although I don’t understand the move away from press coverage to the soft zone when you have the best cornerback tandem in the league. The bend don’t break philosophy hasn’t been a game killer (yet) since the Titans have returned to their inability to cover tight ends, allowing Coby Fleener to run by untouched and virtually uncovered on Thursday night. The lack of attention to Fleener allowed him to catch 8 passes for 107 yards which is a career high for the inconsistent second year tight end. Andrew Luck went 23 of 36 for 232 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions and was sacked once. He did gash them in the run game (shocking I know) with 9 rushes for 31 yards and an 11 yard touchdown run.
I haven’t had time to go back and really watch film on this issue but my impression is that the Titans defensive line is better when Mookie Johnson gets snaps over Sammie Lee Hill. Johnson played 8 snaps to Hill’s 41 Thursday a trend which can be traced back 4 weeks. For whatever reason the defensive line play isn’t as good though Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan continue to play well.
The safety play has struggled the past 2 games and I can’t quite figure why. Michael Griffin was playing very well but he got injured. He played all the defensive snaps against the Colts and it was easily his worst game of the year. I will chalk it up to a bad game but that is a situation to watch. I also wonder why safety George Wilson only played one defensive snap. Perhaps it’s due to Tommie Campbell’s injury and the need to have a good gunner on special teams. Campbell has now been placed on injured reserve.
Finally, the Titans need their young linebackers to show up and show out. The play hasn’t been bad until the Colts game (it was bad). They simply aren’t making any impact plays anymore and I cannot figure out why. This is a talented bunch and they are way too talented to be this meh. To his credit, Akeem Ayers took full responsibility for his terrible unnecessary roughness penalty on the Colts final drive. However, it’s time to step up young fellas. Your team needs you.
In the end, the inability to stop the run and a special teams turnover cost the Titans the game. This isn’t a bad team and you cannot fault the gameplan by the coaching staff either. It’s been solid. The Titans are losing because good players are playing undisciplined football and making mistakes. There were 11 missed tackles by the defense against the Colts. If you can’t execute the fundamentals you cannot win football games.
|Indianapolis Colts (7-3-0)||Tennessee Titans (4-6-0)|
|R. Jean Francois||1-0||0.0||0||0|
|Total First Downs||24||Total First Downs||20|
|By Rushing||10||By Rushing||7|
|By Passing||12||By Passing||10|
|By Penalty||By Penalty|
|Third Down Efficiency||6/13 – 46%||Third Down Efficiency||6/11 – 54%|
|Fourth Down Efficiency||0/0 – 0%||Fourth Down Efficiency||0/0 – 0%|
|Total Net Yards||366||Total Net Yards||340|
|Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks)||69||Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks)||54|
|Average Gain per Offensive Play||5.3||Average Gain per Offensive Play||6.3|
|Net Yards Rushing||137||Net Yards Rushing||122|
|Total Rushing Plays||32||Total Rushing Plays||24|
|Average Gain per Rushing Play||4.3||Average Gain per Rushing Play||5.1|
|Tackled for a Loss (Number-Yards)||1–1||Tackled for a Loss (Number-Yards)||2–3|
|Net Yards Passing||229||Net Yards Passing||218|
|Times Sacked (Number-Yards)||1 – 3||Times Sacked (Number-Yards)||2 – 4|
|Gross Yards Passing||232||Gross Yards Passing||222|
|Pass Comp-Att-Int||23 – 36 – 0||Pass Comp-Att-Int||22 – 28 – 0|
|Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks)||6.2||Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks)||7.3|
|Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks)||6 – 3 – 2||Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks)||6 – 3 – 1|
|Punts (Number-Average)||3 – 37.0||Punts (Number-Average)||3 – 39.0|
|Net Punting Average||29.0||Net Punting Average||34.0|
|FGs Blocked – PATs Blocked||0 – 0||FGs Blocked – PATs Blocked||0 – 0|
|Total Return Yardage (excludes Kickoffs)||15||Total Return Yardage (excludes Kickoffs)||4|
|Punt Returns (Number-Yards)||2 – 15||Punt Returns (Number-Yards)||1 – 4|
|Kickoff Returns (Number-Yards)||4 – 76||Kickoff Returns (Number-Yards)||3 – 63|
|Interception Returns (Number-Yards)||0 – 0||Interception Returns (Number-Yards)||0 – 0|
|Penalties (Number-Yards)||5 – 51||Penalties (Number-Yards)||4 – 34|
|Fumbles (Number-Lost)||0 – 0||Fumbles (Number-Lost)||1 – 1|
|Kickoff Returns||0||Kickoff Returns||0|
|Fumble Returns||0||Fumble Returns||0|
|Punt Returns||0||Punt Returns||0|
|Extra Points (Made-Attempted)||3 – 3||Extra Points (Made-Attempted)||3 – 3|
|Kicking (Made-Attempted)||3 – 3||Kicking (Made-Attempted)||3 – 3|
|Two Point Conversions (Made-Attempted)||0 – 0||Two Point Conversions (Made-Attempted)||0 – 0|
|Field Goals (Made-Attempted)||3 – 3||Field Goals (Made-Attempted)||2 – 2|
|Red Zone Efficiency||3/4 – 75%||Red Zone Efficiency||2/3 – 66%|
|Goal To Go Efficiency||0/0 – 0%||Goal To Go Efficiency||0/0 – 0%|
|Final Score||30||Final Score||27|
|Time of Possession||32:23||Time of Possession||27:37|