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Zack Moss’ marvelous performance leads Colts to 23-16 win over Titans

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts running back Zack Moss celebrates scoring a touchdown during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS – Despite the resurgence of Jonathan Taylor dominating headlines, running back Zack Moss stole the show and scored two touchdowns to lead the Indianapolis Colts to a 23-16 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Entering Week 5, Tennessee’s defense allowed an NFL-best 2.39 yards per carry, but Indianapolis rode its 1-2 punch and picked up 193 yards on the ground, averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Moss showcased a career-high 165 rushing yards and extended his streak with at least 70 yards from scrimmage to eight games, which is the NFL’s second-longest active streak behind Los Angeles’ Austin Ekeler with nine.

The Colts racked up a season-high 429 yards of offense and dominated the line of scrimmage. Colts right guard Will Fries made a key block on Titans’ linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair during the first quarter’s penultimate play from scrimmage. Indianapolis’ offensive line paved a runway for Moss to jet for a 56-yard touchdown – the longest play of his career – to give the Colts a 7-3 lead.

Moss later ran a bubble out of the backfield on a genius pick play to convert 3rd-&-5 midway through the fourth quarter and picked up 26 yards on the reception to not only keep the possession alive, but allow the offense to eat up nearly six minutes off the game clock.

Titans’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill orchestrated methodical drives while on script and found success disguising the passing game with play action. Tennessee reached the red zone on four of its seven true possessions – eliminating the kneel down to end the half – but were held to scoring three field goals and one touchdown. The Titans were exposed Sunday as one of the worst teams in the NFL converting red zone drives into touchdowns. Indianapolis limited Titans’ RB Derrick Henry to just 43 rushing yards, his fewest yards against the Colts since his rookie season in 2016.

Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson launched his best throw on a corner route to his favorite target and rookie receiver Josh Downs made an over the shoulder grab between two defenders for a 38-yard gain to get inside Titans’ territory. Downs led the Colts with six catches for 97 receiving yards.

“(Downs) has got a natural feel playing that position, catches everything, runs good routes,” Colts head coach Shane Steichen said. “He’s explosive, and then obviously the quarterbacks, both Anthony (Richardson) and Gardner (Minshew), got a good feel for the way he runs his routes and just find completions going to him.”

Richardson suffered an AC joint injury after landing on his throwing shoulder during a designed run and did not play another snap. Colts backup QB Gardner Minshew came in for relief and found tight end Kylen Granson to move the sticks on third down. Minshew then stepped up in the pocket and led Downs for a 25-yard gain to drive inside the Titans 30-yard line. The Colts fifth-year veteran QB completed 11-of-14 passes for 155 passing yards and closed the game out for the third time in five games.

With 45 seconds left in the first half, Indianapolis had all three timeouts and 1st-&-10 at the Titans 14-yard line. After Minshew scrambled on third down and dove just short of the sticks, the Colts came up empty as Minshew underthrew his pass in the flat to Granson for a turnover on downs to essentially end the first half.

Tennessee scored four plays into the second half after Tannehill completed consecutive passes to DeAndre Hopkins to drive inside the red zone. With CB Dallis Flowers out for the season (Achilles), Indianapolis started two rookie corners, second-round pick Juju Brents and seventh-round pick Jaylon Jones. Despite being older than every player on the Colts roster, Hopkins finished with a game-high eight receptions for 140 receiving yards. The Titans ran an end around with rookie RB Tyjae Spears on the next play to score the first touchdown of his career and seize a 13-10 lead.

Steichen retaliated with a gameplan to bruise the Titans’ front line with seven carries by Moss on a nine-play scoring drive. Once the Colts reached the red zone, Steichen fed Moss on four consecutive run plays to bulldoze through the goal line and retake a 17-13 lead midway through the third quarter. Taylor rushed for 18 yards on six carries and converted a first down on a screen play for a 16-yard reception.

“One, I just don’t know how he keeps hitting that spin move,” Taylor said. “I got to add that into my repertoire. You see how dynamic he is, he’s a tough runner and then you guys saw today he’s got breakaway speed, too. Don’t sleep.”

With eight minutes left in regulation on 4th-&-1, Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and linebacker Zaire Franklin lit up Henry at the line of scrimmage to force a turnover on downs. Franklin recorded 12 tackles, passing Antoine Bethea for the fifth-most games with double-digit tackles in franchise history.

With no timeouts to use on the Titans’ final drive, Colts defensive end Samson Ebukam corralled Tannehill for his third sack to keep the clock running and safety Julian Blackmon undercut the following deep ball to Hopkins for a game-sealing interception.

After securing win No. 550 in franchise history, Indianapolis will travel for a rematch against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 6 to decide sole possession of first place in the AFC South.