Bend, but don’t break.
That seemed to be the story for the Indianapolis Colts defense last night in their 34-17 victory over the division rival Tennessee Titans. The Indianapolis Colts defense possesses the third-ranked run defense in the NFL, allowing just 91.8 on the year. Derrick Henry, however, is a different animal. It was key for Indianapolis to control the game from the front seven using consistent pressure and tight coverage, especially when the Titans employ the use of the most play-action plays per drive in the NFL.
The Colts did one key thing on defense: They kept Derrick Henry out of the end zone. He was largely ineffective in goal-to-go situations yesterday; the Titans’ only touchdowns came off of a play-action pass to D’Onta Foreman and a one-yard jet sweep by tight end Jonnu Smith. Having the front seven, especially the defensive line, control the game as they did was the biggest factor in their victory last night. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was hit five times and sacked once and Henry was held to 103 yards on 19 carries. Not an incredible showing there, but as mentioned above, bend but don’t break.
Indianapolis Colts Defense Plays Lights Out in Dominant Win on Thursday Night Football
For the Colts offensively, it was an efficient and surprising night. Many expected Rivers to struggle after what we’d all seen last weekend against Baltimore. However, the Titans just couldn’t stop him down the stretch. He finished with 308 passing yards and a passing touchdown (to Nyheim Hines), all the while spreading the ball around to eight different pass-catchers.
For the many wondering when T.Y. Hilton is going to have his “breakout” game this year, it most likely won’t be happening at all this year. That’s not to say he’s fallen off skill-wise. Rivers simply works the ball around too much to give anyone a surplus of targets over the course of one game. In fact, Michael Pittman Jr’s seven-catch, 101-yard performance yesterday marked just the third time a Colts receiver amassed over 100 yards in a game this year (Mo Alie-Cox with 111 in Week 2 and Marcus Johnson with 108 in Week 6).
Back on the trend of efficiency, the offense led eight drives throughout the course of the game and none of them resulted in a three-and-out. Four of those drives were over 11 plays long (two resulting in scores and the other two a loss of downs), and the only two times the offense led a drive under five plays was twice in the second half. Both, however, resulted in a touchdown. Rigoberto Sanchez was used just once (on the team’s final drive in garbage time) and that drive was the only time the offense was stopped in their own territory.
Special Teams Collapse for Tennessee
The Titans certainly aided the Colts in the second half with their many special teams miscues. Punter Trevor Daniel started his day with a shanked 17-yard punt and followed that up immediately with a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown by T.J. Carrie. Former Pro Bowl kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, wasn’t any better as he missed a 44-yard field goal that would close the gap to 27-20 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Gostkowski is now 2-7 from 40-49 yards this year and 12-20 overall.
The Colts have a “mini-bye” as Rivers called it before they head back home to Indianapolis for another crucial matchup against the Green Bay Packers. A win there could shift the dynamic of the AFC South standings once again as Indianapolis holds the tiebreaker over the Titans at this point in the year. Week 12 will be the rematch between these two teams that could decide the division winner given the similarities in their current records and the unlikelihood of these two inconsistent teams making a huge run to end the year. If the Colts are able to sweep the season series, it’ll all but guarantee them the division unless they completely fall apart. For now, though, the Indianapolis Colts are riding high as the AFC South leaders.