As part of our look back at the 2016 season for the Indianapolis Colts, we’re taking a look at each game the team played this season. We know that won’t be the most fun experience for Colts fans, but we’re taking a look back at each game within the context of the entire season. Today we continue the series with the week eleven win over the Titans:
Fresh off of a huge road win against the Packers and then a bye week, the Colts were feeling good heading into a huge divisional game against the Titans. The Colts knew they’d need to step it up in the second half of the season to have a shot at winning the division, and they came out on fire. The Colts’ first three drives all ended in touchdowns, capped by a Robert Turbin touchdown run, a Donte Moncrief touchdown reception, and then a T.Y. Hilton touchdown reception on fourth down on what was one of his finest plays of the entire season, as he ripped the ball away from the defender in the end zone for the score. The Colts went up 21-0 and were looking to add to their huge lead when a two-play swing helped change the game. On third down Dwayne Allen flat out dropped a pass, and then Adam Vinatieri missed a 42-yard field goal. The Titans then responded with a much-needed touchdown right before halftime to make it 21-7. In the third quarter the Titans once again found the end zone, while the teams then traded field goals in the fourth quarter to make it 24-17 Colts. After a Titans punt, the Colts’ drive ended quickly with an Andrew Luck interception on the first play, giving Tennessee the ball back down one score. They moved the ball deep into Colts territory, winding up with a 4th and 1 from the Colts’ 19 yard line with less than three minutes to play. Tennessee had one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL in 2016 and the Colts had one of the worst rushing defenses, so everyone knew what the Titans were going to do. DeMarco Murray received the handoff... and was met by Clayton Geathers, who provided his best play of the year by absolutely stuffing the run. The game wasn’t over yet, however, as the Colts still needed to get a first down in order to be able to run out the clock... and on 3rd and 5, Luck found Hilton for a huge eleven-yard pickup. Game over. The Colts had won 24-17 and improved to 5-5 on the season.
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.
What We’re Saying Now:
This is a pretty significant recap, because this is the only time that we can write about a second-straight win for the Colts in 2016. That’s right: this win over the Titans was the only time all season that the Colts followed up a victory with another victory - and even these two were separated by a bye week in-between. The Colts had a season in which they alternated wins and losses almost every other week, besides for two straight losses to begin the season and two straight wins in the middle of the season - the win over the Packers and then this win over the Titans. So that’s pretty significant, and it was also the first time all year the Colts reached the .500 mark. The game was also noteworthy because it ensured another season sweep of the Titans, the fifth straight season in which the Colts won both games against Tennessee. In fact, the Colts have an eleven-game win streak against the Titans, and to find their last loss to Tennessee you’d have to go back to the brief Curtis Painter era. Outside of that one game, however, the Colts are 16-1 against the Titans in their last 17 games. The Colts may no longer dominate the AFC South, but they still dominate the Titans. Unfortunately for Indy, their two division wins against the Titans made up all but one of their AFC South wins last year, and they finished behind them in the standings. This game had far more significance for the Titans than it did for the Colts: if Tennessee hadn’t been swept by the Colts, they could have been division champs. Next season, that could be the key for the Titans: in order to win the AFC South, they’re likely going to have to break their losing streak against the Colts.