Earlier this year and in the past few years, it used to be a problem for the Colts starting games. Now, it seems to be a problem finishing games. But nevertheless the Colts defeated the Tennessee Titans 24-17 this afternoon in a huge AFC South division matchup.
The Colts jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter and were absolutely dominating in every area, but then a bad drop by Dwayne Allen and a missed field goal by Adam Vinatieri changed the momentum. Instead of the Colts possibly making it 28-0 (if Allen had caught it and kept the drive alive) or 24-0 (if Vinatieri had made it), the Colts got stopped and the defense promptly allowed a Titans touchdown drive right before the half. The Titans then dominated the third quarter and drew it to a one-score game, at which point the rest of the game was a hard-fought battle.
The Colts came out on top, but it’s become a trend in recent games of the Colts letting teams back in a game - much like what the Colts offense used to do after slow starts. This was the fourth game they’ve led by double-digits at some point, and all four of them have wound up being one possession games (including a loss to the Texans in overtime).
But enough of that for now, as the biggest story from the game is simply that the Colts got a huge, much-needed win, and it was sparked by a fast start. The Colts scored touchdowns on their first three drives of the game, with Robert Turbin rushing for a one-yard score, Andrew Luck hitting Donte Moncrief for a two-yard score, and then Andrew Luck hitting T.Y. Hilton for a two-yard score on fourth down. On that Hilton play, the receiver made a tremendous adjustment to take the ball away from the defender and come up with a score.
The defense did their job on the first several drives too, but after that Allen drop everything changed. The Titans drove right down the field with the newfound momentum, and then the third quarter was dominated by Tennessee.
Then in the fourth quarter the teams traded field goals, and eventually it wound up with the Titans driving late in the game trying to tie it up. The Colts were trying to do whatever they could to help the Titans in the fourth quarter and Tennessee converted one fourth down on the drive, but on the second fourth down try Clayton Geathers absolutely stuffed DeMarco Murray on the 4th and 1 run. That was a HUGE play and a tremendous stop by Geathers, and the offense then was able to run the clock out - thanks in large part to a huge conversion from Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton.
Luck was very good for the most part on the day, though the second half wasn’t as sharp. Luck completed 15 of 28 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and he also rushed for 25 yards - but even those numbers don’t neccessarily do his performance justice. T.Y. Hilton once again came up big, as he caught five passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. And the defense did their job for the most part, particularly against the run. The Titans are one of the best in the NFL at running the football and the Colts seemed determined to not let Tennessee beat them on the ground. DeMarco Murray rushed for 70 yards on 21 carries, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, while the Titans as a team rushed for 97 yards while averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Give Indy’s defense, particularly their run defense, a lot of credit.
All that ultimately matters in the standings is the result, and the win was absolutely huge for the Colts no matter how they got it. They jump the Titans for second place in the division as they improve to 5-5 on the year, while the Titans drop to 5-6. Furthermore, the Colts own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Tennessee as they swept the season series (and extended their win streak against the Titans to eleven games), keeping them in hot pursuit of the AFC South crown. Though the Colts stumbled down the stretch, the result was the same: a huge win that was much-needed. And the Colts stay very much in the playoff race.