After a heartbreaking loss to the Chargers in Los Angeles in Week 1, the Colts have a short trip down I-65 for their first AFC South meeting of the year against the Tennessee Titans. After a week of processing the good and bad from the Colts showing last Sunday, fans should have had a chance to breath a sigh of relief. Even without Andrew Luck, the team looked capable of not just playing with, but beating one of the more well established playoff teams in the AFC.
Can they clean things up this week in Nashville to continue a dominant streak against the Titans? Will Adam Vinatieri return to form and silence concerned voices about his age? Will the defense show it still has the same identity of the group that looked so dominant late in 2018 or will fans have to prepare themselves for another long season of giving up big plays on the ground?
If the defense stiffens up and the mistakes on special teams disappear, the Colts have a good chance to win in Nashville. If the defense allows Derrick Henry to run all over it or forgets that Delanie Walker is an elite receiving talent in the NFL, they could give away another one.
Let’s take a look at some keys to winning the game.
There are two keys to a Colts victory for the defense today.
First, even without Kemoko Turay and Jabaal Sheard, the defensive line will need to find a way to exploit backup left tackle Dennis Kelly. Marcus Mariota has a history of struggling with accuracy, and that history is more severe when he is under pressure.
Getting into Mariota’s face can force inaccurate throws or bad decisions that could allow the Colts secondary to create turnovers. Andrew Luck or no, Tennessee cannot afford to give up possessions and hope to win the game.
Second, the interior of the Colts defensive line and linebackers have to figure out what went wrong in Los Angeles. Titans coach Mike Vrabel knows that his best chance to win game, today any for much of the season, is to rely pretty heavily on dictating the flow of the game of offense with a healthy dose of running. Derrick Henry is strong through the hole and has the speed to take long runs to the house.
If the Colts can get back to the run defense of a year ago, Henry will be more pedestrian and the pressure will shift back to Mariota. The more Mariota feels that he has to carry the Titans to victory, the better it is for the Colts.
My word, the offensive line just needs to keep doing what it did a week ago on the ground. Marlon Mack led the NFL in rushing yards by a wide margin in a losing effort but it was impressive to see the offense withstand pressure on the scoreboard to grind its way back into the game late and force overtime.
What needs to change is the offensive play-calling must capitalize more on how an effective run game will open up the play-action passing game. Jacoby Brissett looked comfortable running the offense with the first team in Los Angeles and has the arm and accuracy to pepper the field on intermediate throws. He also has a bit of a tendency (as did Luck) to stare down his first read and force a ball into a tight window.
Play-action should help mask some of those tendencies and could lead to big plays for plays like T.Y. Hilton, Deon Cain, Parris Campbell and Eric Ebron.
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1 PM ET on Sunday, September 15, 2019
Nissan Stadium – Nashville, TN
Play-By-Play: Spero Dedes
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Play-By-Play: Matt Taylor
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FINAL INJURY REPORT
DE Kemoko Turay (neck) has been downgraded to OUT for #INDvsTEN.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 14, 2019
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