Titans vs. Colts: Final Grades, Analysis for Tennessee
It was a tale of two halves, as they say, and the Colts got the better of it, improving to 9-4, while the Titans drop to 4-9, without a single win in the AFC South.
Final Score: Colts 27, Titans 23
Jake Locker looked like two different quarterbacks in the first half versus the second. He started strong, going 15 for 20 and a touchdown in the first half.
In the second half, he was only seven for 15 and threw two interceptions.
In the end, Locker completed 22 of 35 passes for 262 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Not bad overall, but after such a strong start, it was disappointing overall.
Locker also had four rushes for 51 yards, which made him the Titans leading rusher. If he had more help in that department, he might have had a better outing.
The ground game never got going. Other than Locker's 51 yards, the Titans only had 47 rushing yards.
Chris Johnson looked like he did in the first few games of the season, and he only managed 2.3 yards per carry.
A lot of that has to do with the Titans starting a new right tackle, a new center, and a relatively new right guard. With poor run blocking, not all of the running game was to blame on Johnson.
Darius Reynaud had one carry for two yards, but other than that, all the carries went to Johnson.
The Titans receivers played a lot better than they did last week against Houston, where dropped passes and the inability to stay in bounds cost the Titans more than once.
The passes that were dropped were few and far between.
Kenny Britt finally had a breakout game, catching eight passes for 143 yards, his biggest total of the season.
After Britt, Kendall Wright got the lion's share of the targets, catching five passes for 39 yards. He's still got some growing to do as a receiver, but his performances have been promising thus far.
Nate Washington and Michael Preston each caught one pass for 15 and 11 yards, respectively. Washington and Locker seemed to be off, though I'm not sure who the blame falls on.
Jared Cook caught the Titans' only offensive touchdown of the game and totaled three catches for 20 yards.
Craig Stevens caught one pass for 19 yards, and had a false start which cost the Titans when it set them back for a long third down.
Cook ought to be the go-to endzone target when the Titans are in the red-zone, but he wasn't today, which is something that needs to be corrected going forward. He's significantly taller than any of the Titans receivers.
A lot of the blame for the poor rushing numbers probably falls to the offensive line. David Stewart and Steve Hutchinson were sorely missed.
Starting at center this week was Kevin Matthews; Fernando Velasco moved to left guard to replace Hutchinson. Matthews and Locker weren't on the same page for a lot of the game, and that hurt the Titans more than once.
On the bright side, the offensive line only gave up three sacks, which is a big improvement over the six that were surrendered last week.
With Stewart and Hutchinson gone for the season, Bruce Matthews better hope that the group plays better now that they've got a full game under their belt, because he's not going to get his starters back this year.
There was another great performance by the defensive line today, and the group came away with four sacks and a lot of pressure on Andrew Luck, along with six tackles for loss.
Derrick Morgan and Karl Klug each had two sacks (although one of Morgan's didn't count statistically). Kamerion Wimbley, despite having no sacks in the game, contributed a lot to the pass rush.
Rookie defensive tackle Mike Martin had a big game as well, with a couple of tackles and a big tackle for loss. He put a lot of pressure on Luck himself.
Run defense at the second level was a big problem. Veteran Will Witherspoon started for the injured Colin McCarthy, and he led the group in tackles with five, along with a couple of defended passes.
Akeem Ayers had an unusually quiet game, with just two tackles and a tackle for loss. He did apply some pass rushing pressure to Luck, but for the most part, it wasn't one of his best games.
Rookie Zach Brown showed off his speed and pass defending ability, and he ended the game with three tackles, all of them solo, and a hit on Luck.
Again, missing McCarthy proved costly. If the linebackers did a better job against the run, the game may have turned out differently.
Cornerback play was pretty good overall, but rookie Coty Sensabaugh made a few notable errors that game the Colts receivers some big plays.
Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner did pretty well, but this game made it clear that the Titans need a third starting quality corner badly.
McCourty had six tackles and one big tackle for a loss, while Verner only had two tackles, but had two defended passes and a tackle for loss as well.
Safety play was bad, as usual, and a lot of the passes that Luck got off were deep passes to guys that should have been covered by the safeties. It is a liability that will need to be addressed if the Titans want to become contenders.
Rob Bironas missed one field goal, but it was from sixty yards, and those are not really expected anyway. Other than that, he made every field goal and extra point he was asked to.
Darius Reynaud didn't return any kicks, and just one punt (for 14 yards), so it's hard to gauge his performance overall. That said, returning too many kicks has been a problem in the past, so all touchbacks is probably an improvement.
The Colts punt returners weren't much more notable other than one 17 yard punt return by T.Y Hilton, so overall, the special teams play was pretty average.
There were some big miffs by the Titans coaches, and that's what really cost them the game. The biggest mistake was missing the fact that a favorable spot gave them a first down. Had that not been missed, the game may have ended differently.
The biggest consistent problem the team has had on offense is the inability to get touchdowns in the red-zone. Going forward, the offensive coaching staff is going to have to consider going for it on fourth down when the option is a touchdown instead of a field goal.
Jerry Gray's defense came through. The Colts only scored 20 points on offense, and that's with Andrew Luck at the helm, but safety play continues to be a liability that he's been unable to fix.