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Colts face big challenge this Sunday in dangerous Titans offense

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

When the Indianapolis Colts host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, they will see an offense that’s been playing really good football over the past few weeks.

Since their last meeting with the Colts, the Titans are 2-1 and are averaging 39.3 points per game and 444.3 yards per game in that three-game stretch. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has been very impressive recently, completing 70.3% of his passes for 878 yards (9.6 yards per attempt), nine touchdowns, and two picks since his last meeting with Indy, adding 25 yards and a touchdown rushing as well. Last week, he was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in Tennessee’s big win over the Packers.

On the season, Mariota has completed 64% of his passes for 2,482 yards (7.83 yards per attempt), 21 touchdowns, and eight interceptions while adding 235 yards and two scores rushing. The Titans also have one of the league’s most dangerous rushing attacks, as DeMarco Murray has rushed for 930 yards and eight touchdowns (averaging 4.9 yards per carry) and has also caught 46 passes for 259 yards and two scores.

So the Colts will face a tough offense that has been playing its best football recently, which isn’t a good matchup for a team with a bad defense like Indianapolis.

“There is a really good football team coming to town and they are playing well in all three phases,” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday. “Offensively, [they’re] running the football as good as anybody in the league right now. No. 3 in rushing, No. 2 in rushing attempts, the running back is playing at a high level. Murray is doing a great job, they have a great offensive line. The quarterback is playing extremely well, the tight end, wide receivers have great skill. It is going to be a huge challenge for us. They are third in the league in third down efficiency, No. 1 in the red area, almost 80 percent touchdown percentage down there. We know it is a huge challenge for our defense. Offensively, the defense is very stingy, they are great up front. They have players at all three levels, good corners, they are going to challenge you on every down. We are going to have to win matchups, protect, open up holes, be efficient, early down success is going to be very vital and important on both sides of the ball.”

Pagano knows that in addition to the Titans’ rushing attack his defense will need to try to stop the reining AFC Offensive Player of the Week in Marcus Mariota, and that won’t be easy either.

“I think he is executing, his efficiency is great, he is completing over 70 percent of his passes over the course of the last three ball games,” Pagano said. “[His] QB rating is off the charts, you mentioned the touchdowns, he has 21 touchdowns to eight interceptions. Unbelievable in the red area, I think their ability to run the football and get the ball out of his hand, he is athletic, he can extend plays, managing things, making great decisions and being a great game manager. He is playing obviously really good football right now and we are going to have to do a great job of No. 1 trying to slow down the run and containing him, slow down their game wreckers, make sure he doesn’t beat you with his arm because when he is extending some plays he is making plays down the field. It doesn’t matter what the down and distance is on third down. They are doing a great job with the play call selection, they are mixing it up, they are multiple formations, personnel groups, they get you off balance and reeling a little bit so they are doing a great job.”

The game is a big one for the Colts (4-5), who are behind the Titans (5-5) in the AFC South standings but could change that with a win. With just seven games remaining, the Colts will need to play their best football moving forward and will absolutely need to win their division matchups, which starts this Sunday. It won’t be easy, however, as a very dangerous Titans team rolls into Indy looking to end a ten-game losing streak against the Colts.