On October 16, the Indianapolis Colts will travel to Nissan Stadium to play the Tennessee Titans. Recently, the series between these two teams has been rather lopsided. The Colts have won 11 straight games, and 16 of their last 17 matchups. Overall, the Colts have a commanding lead on the series as well, standing at a record of 31-14.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano will look to continue this success on Monday night. Today, lets revisit how the Colts found a way to win their previous matchup against their AFC South foe.
Week 11 of the 2016 season; the Colts (4-5) were just coming off of their bye week - feeling great after beating the Green Bay Packers the week before. They still had a chance of winning the division and making the playoffs. However, they knew this was a critical game in Indianapolis to set the tone for the remainder of the season.
The Titans were sitting at 5-5. They just handed the Packers their second straight loss to an AFC South opponent and were seeking to beat the Colts for the first time since 2011. This game was a must-win for the Titans as well, knowing a loss meant that the Colts would stay alive in the division and would have beaten them both times that they faced each other that season.
The Titans had a slow start to begin the game, as the Colts defense held them to a quick three-and-out. Early in the Colts’ first drive, Andrew Luck faced a 3rd-and-13. He managed to scramble around, buying enough time to find T.Y. Hilton for a 20-yard gain and a first down.
A few plays later, the Colts were in the red zone following a 33-yard pass interference call. Luck tried running the ball in himself, but was stopped one yard short of the goal line. Although his run did set up a touchdown by Robert Turbin, Luck took an awkward-looking hit, but the hardest hit he’d endure is yet to come.
Following the touchdown drive, the defense once again held the Titans to a quick punt. Robert Mathis came in with a quick spin move on third down, causing a sack, ending the drive.
Trickery was soon to follow. Frank Gore took a direct snap, then passed it to Luck, who eventually threw it back to the wide open running back. Gore did the rest, eventually getting tackled inside the 10-yard line.
The offense capitalized on the big play with a touchdown pass from Luck to Donte Moncrief, putting the Colts up 14-0.
The Colts opened up the second quarter with the ball, and immediately faced a 3rd-and-long situation. That being said, the good momentum from the first quarter carried into the second. Luck found Moncrief on a beautifully-thrown out pattern to move the chains.
Bigger plays then continued for the offense. Luck changing the play at the line of scrimmage, then finding Philip Dorsett, who found his way open after the man covering him tripped and fell down.
The drive nearly bogged down at the goal line. The Colts faced a fourth down, but somehow Hilton managed to come up with a slightly underthrown pass for a touchdown.
At this point, it appeared the game was heading towards a blowout. The offense was firing at all cylinders, and appeared to even be getting a few breaks along the way. Meanwhile, the defense was holding the Titans in check.
Needless to say, the game took a slow turn and the momentum shifted to the Titans. After a rare Adam Vinatieri missed field goal, the Titans took the ball and inched forward in small chucks of yardage, eventually resulting in a touchdown right before halftime.
Following punts by both teams, the Titans began to drive the ball down field once again. Marcus Mariota began to carve up the Colts defense with accurate passes.
Here, Mariota throws a perfectly-thrown post route to Tajae Sharpe to bring the game closer before the end of the third quarter.
4th Quarter :
Early in the fourth quarter, the Titans kicked a field goal. With that score, they put up 17 unanswered points - cutting the Colts’ lead to only four points.
Luck quickly helped ease the nerves of Colts fans, as he connected with Hilton in stride for the offense’s first big play since the second quarter.
Unfortunately, the drive didn’t progress past this point. Luck was sacked on second down and his head bounced off of the ground. Although he finished this game, he missed the following one on Thanksgiving against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a concussion.
Following the sack and an incompletion, the Titans would receive the ball. That drive resulted in a punt. The Colts offense would have an opportunity to put the game out of reach with a score of any kind, but Luck threw an interception, breathing new life into the Titans.
On the Titans’ final drive of the game, they began to move the ball up the field with short passes and runs. This was a risky strategy as it would prove to chew up plenty of the game clock.
They then faced a 4th-and-1 situation. Everyone knew it was going to be a hand off, and Clayton Geathers came up big for the Colts, stuffing the run for no gain - effectively ending the game as the Colts were able to chew out the clock in their next possession.
The Colts nearly let a crucial division game slip through their fingers. Leading by 21 points in the first half at home, then letting up 17 points unanswered is inexcusable. Hindsight is 20/20 and this game really didn’t mean anything for either team as they both missed the playoffs.
If the Colts want to be a consistent playoff-caliber team, they must find a way how to stay focused all four quarters, and avoid letting the opposing teams getting back into games. With this being said, the Colts did find a way to win 24-17, and fans hope to see more of the same on Monday night.