The Indianapolis Colts came into this game as underdogs to the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans and they leave this game as the new leaders of the AFC South. Members of the national media almost universally picked the Titans to win this game. Instead the Colts doubled the Titans’ score on their way to a fantastic win on Thursday Night Football.
I really wish the Colts started games better
I know I’m asking for a very difficult thing, as both teams kind of feel each other out and the Colts usually do a good job adjusting to what they’re seeing during the game. But I just really wish the first few minutes of a game or two down the stretch would have luck bounce the Colts’ way.
The first Titans drive sure seemed like it might be a long night for anyone who wanted to see the guys wearing white win.
Fourth downs were very popular last night
Frank Reich went for it on fourth down five times last night and converted three times. I think most Colts fans were displeased with the play calls given the almost complete lack of success the Colts had running up the middle but it’s tough to deny that keeping the Titans defense on the field as long as the Colts offense was able to became beneficial later in this game.
Shot out of a cannon
Julian Blackmon usually has at least one play a game that really stands out, and this week this play was the one. Blackmon looks to be yet another excellent day two defensive draft pick from Chris Ballard. At the time his selection was viewed by some in media as the Colts taking the “lesser” of the Utah safeties and he was fresh off of a torn ACL.
I’m not saying that Chris Ballard is above reproach, clearly he is not, but what I am saying is that finding as many excellent defenders as Ballard and his staff have found in rounds two and three doesn’t happen by accident.
Julian Blackmon is playing some really good football right now.
After this play the Titans should have been ahead by 13
The Colts truly got lucky on this play. Despite what he showed last night, A.J. Brown is a very, very good receiver and dropping this pass was an uncharacteristic mistake from the young receiver. Had he caught this pass, no one on the Colts defense would have been able to catch him, he’s just too fast.
Also Ryan Tannehill got absolutely smashed right after this throw, and this was a theme that would continue all night long. The Colts left the game with only one sack but Ryan Tannehill probably really struggled to get out of bed this morning.
The Colts overloaded the left side of the Titans line
So far this season, the Titans have really struggled to adjust when teams overload one side of their line and send the blitz. They seemingly had no answers for it, until last night. The Titans did the smart thing and got the ball out of Tannehill’s hand quickly before the front seven had a chance to tee off on the quarterback. The pass went short of the sticks and the Colts secondary did a good job getting to the ball and making a stop.
Another storyline from last nights game
Nyheim Hines turned 24 yesterday. When I turned 24 I was in a dorm room just outside of Kansas City because I decided going back to school would be a great idea (it wasn’t). Nyheim Hines ended up having a career day and was far and away the Colts most dangerous offensive weapon.
He’s going to get more hate after this game
Jonathan Taylor ran the ball seven times for 12 yards last night and people are going to kill him for it. I understand he’s had a disappointing start to his professional career but his 1.7 yard per carry average last night wasn’t his fault.
Of his seven attempts, four came on third or fourth and one. Every single one of those attempts was designed to go right up the middle of the Titans defense. While the Titans defense has been bad this year, their lone bright spot has been defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, who has been playing at a very high level. Between his presence and Jadeveon Clowny’s seeming inability to be blocked on rushing downs, the Colts had almost no success running up the middle, regardless of who had the ball.
Taylor did have two catches for 25 yards including this catch and run that put his power on display. I, like everyone else, am hoping Taylor can be productive moving forward. If the Colts can figure ways to get him to the edge, and get him the ball in space, I do think he can be a dangerous player given his speed and power in the open field.
But this was the Nyheim Hines show
Hines has shown multiple times this year that linebackers simply cannot cover him one on one and Frank Reich needs to focus on getting these matchups every week moving forward.
The secondary deserves some attention
While there were a couple of missteps and allowed completions, the Colts defensive backs played amazing football for most of the night. Rock Ya-Sin was called for a soft pass interference call in the endzone and was beaten on a slant route but he, Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie limited Ryan Tannehill to 15 of 27 passing with 147 yards and his lone touchdown went to a running back in the flat. The secondary was very good.
This guy is a monster
Grover Stewart has become an absolute monster. He’s a free agent at the end of this season and I hope he has a horseshoe on his helmet for years to come.
DeMichael Harris is a 5’8” 178 pound undrafted rookie out of Southern Mississippi. Before this play he had mostly been targeted on shorter concepts and gadget plays. Here, Philip Rivers saw a matchup he liked and let Harris go get the ball. Harris came up big and I think most of us would like to see what he can do with an expanded role over the back half of the season.
I don’t know what more to say about him
Nyheim Hines was just so good last night. Here, he shows patience waiting for blocks to develop and when a defender finally breaks through, he uses his acceleration to get around the edge and pick up thirteen yards. This isn’t how they drew it up, but it worked and that’s all you can ask for.
Just when you think you know exactly what the Colts are going to do on fourth and short, they do the exact opposite. The Titans safety was playing off the line to help defend against any rub routes that the two pass catching options in the slot may have run. If one of them had broken inside, he would have been able to drive on the ball and force an incompletion.
By defending against that, they leave the quick out wide open. Philip Rivers recognizes it and delivers an on-target ball.
I believe had the Titans defense lined up closer to the Colts receivers, Rivers would have changed their routes and they would have run a pick play to the middle of the field. The Titans were in a rough spot in man coverage on this one.
Another fourth down conversion
Even though the Colts later turned the ball over on downs, this drive felt like the Titans were on their heels.
This play was huge
Denico Autry was completely sold out on rushing the passer on this down. I don’t think he even looked at a running back and instead ran up field before tripping Ryan Tannehill up, forcing a punt.
This is the play that changed the game
This guy was a FedEx driver before he signed with the Titans. I assume today he’s calling his old manager to see if he can get his job back.
When you’re hot, you’re hot
Hines gets in again.
So this wasn’t on the punter
Regardless of whose fault it was his first two NFL punts went for 17 yards and a Colts touchdown. He’s my new favorite player.
This wouldn’t have changed the game
The Titans have had some serious issues kicking the football and the continued last night. Stephen Gostkowski has missed 8 kicks in 9 games. It would surprise me if he is still under contract the next time these two teams face off.
Easily the longest play of his career
Michael Pittman Jr. had the best game of his young career and this is the longest play of his young career. The Colts created a lot of traffic underneath and the Titans weren’t able to cover the big rookie who gained a ton of yards after the catch.
I groaned when he came in
Jacoby Brissett is beloved by his teammates. He’s been on the field a few times this season. Before last night, nothing positive has happened with him out there.
Finally, Frank Reich figured out the best use of Jacoby Brissett: the QB sneak.
The Colts tried to get him over 100
Philip Rivers final three throws were to Michael Pittman Jr. as the Colts seemingly were trying to get him over the 100 receiving yard mark. The were finally successful on this failed 3rd and 9 with the game well in hand.
It’s a great feeling
After Rigoberto Sanchez punted the ball back to the Titans (with more than three minutes on the clock down 17 points) the Titans put in their backups and conceded the game.
I understand why the did it, Tannehill was getting abused after every throw and Derrick Henry had already spent time with the training staff looking at his left arm. The Titans didn’t want any more of what the Colts were handing out and hope to live to fight another day.
Final Thoughts For The Week
As much fun as this win was as a Colts fan, there’s this weird part of me that just constantly seeks wants to bring my excitement back to reality. If you just want to ride the wave of excitement stop reading now. If you want a small dose of reality regarding this game, keep going.
This game was fun but the Titans led most of it. It took more than three and a half quarters, a badly shanked punt and blocked punt returned for a touchdown before the Colts were able to capture the lead.
They did move the ball better on offense. They played the hot hand, used their most explosive players in effective ways, and used a quickened tempo, all things many Colts fans have been asking for all year. But they did it against a truly bad Titans defense.
Does that mean the Colts will be unable to succeed against good defenses doing the same things? No, it doesn’t. They might be able to do the same thing to the Packers and Steelers in the coming weeks, but the fact of the matter is, it is most likely going to be much more difficult against quality defensive opponents.
This was an exciting win and winning is never a bad thing in the NFL. Despite what I’ve said, there’s always a chance this game was the beginning of a great run for the Colts offense. If that’s true, the Colts will be real contenders. If not, this is still a team that should make the playoffs and anything is possible if you make it to the show.