Titans vs. Colts Take 2

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Titans vs. Colts Take 2
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Locker fired an ill-fated pass from his own endzone.

Another week, another fourth-quarter comeback for Andrew Luck and company.

The Indianapolis Colts won their ninth game of the year by taking down the Tennessee Titans 27-23.

It was business as usual for both teams as the Colts won another close game, and the Titans dropped another winnable contest.

After trailing 20-7 at halftime, the Colts roared back to pick up the win

How did they do it?

A second look at the tape reveals all.

 

The Real Story

The Titans are only as good as Jake Locker plays, and Jake Locker doesn't always play very well.

This game said much more about the Titans than it did about the Colts. Indianapolis played the same kind of game they always play, save one horrendous interception from Andrew Luck.

When Locker was on, he abused the suspect Indy secondary.

When Locker was off, he was tossing balls over players' heads or straight into the arms of Indianapolis defenders.

This was a difficult game to get a read on thanks in part to one of the most inept officiating crews in recent memory. They blew a relatively easy replay on Luck's pick-six. They missed a clear catch in bounds by T.Y. Hilton. They failed to see an obvious false start by Dwayne Allen on Pat McAfee's key punt. They blew more spots and interference calls than is mentionable in polite society.

All the mistakes by the officials made for an uneven flow to the contest.

In the end, the Colts did what was necessary to secure their ninth win, but they also got some gifts from Locker in the process.

Heroes

Kenny Britt eviscerated the Colts to the tune of 143 yards receiving.

Karl Klug harassed Luck for a pair of sacks, and obviously Will Witherspoon's pick-six was the play of  the day for the Titans.

Indianapolis got great secondary play from Cassius Vaughn and Vontae Davis in the second half, but it's just as significant that both of them were terrible in the first half.

Vick Ballard shook off a painfully slow start to pile big yards in the second half. Playing with a stinger, he managed 94 yards on just 19 carries.

Reggie Wayne's six catches and a score were all big, but his grab on 3rd-and-11 to set up the second Indy score was incredible.

McAfee's punt inside the one might well have been the play of the game. At the very least, it set up the play of the game.

Finally, all Adam Vinatieri does is hit big field goals.

 

Goats

Donnie Avery has had some bad games, but his effort against Tennessee was one of his worst. His dropped touchdown in the end zone almost cost the Colts the game.

Both Locker and Luck played poorly and deserve mentions here.

Chris Johnson was completely ineffective for Tennessee.

The right side of the Indianapolis line (particularly Winston Justice) was a mess. Luck played poorly in part because of constant pressure. Against a mediocre Titans pass rush, the Colts were constantly beaten.

 

Secret Play

Already trailing 17-7, the Colts tried to recover from Luck's disastrous interception late in the first half. 

Luck hit Delone Carter with a short pass on 1st-and-10, and Carter rumbled for another first down before coughing up the ball.

Two Titans had a chance to recover it inside the Indy 40 before Wayne came flying over the top to scoop up the loose ball.

Even though the Colts didn't get points out of the drive, the play was significant. The game felt like it had a chance to spiral out of control for the Colts, and the heady effort by Wayne kept his team close.

 

Coaching Notes

Perhaps the only thing worse than the officials in this game were the head coaches.

Bruce Arians opened the game with an insipid challenge of an 8-yard catch. Aside from the fact that the ball was clearly completed, there was no need to challenge the play.

It ended up costing the Colts twice.

Already down a challenge, Arians couldn't challenge a catch on the sidelines by T.Y. Hilton a few plays later for fear of playing the final 50 minutes without a challenge.

Second, the Colts ran out of time at the end of the half and desperately needed one more timeout to get a field-goal attempt off.

Mike Munchak returned the favor to the Colts by electing a 57-yard field goal try on 4th-and-4 from the 39-yard line.

In that situation, he easily chose the worst of the three options available to him. The Colts responded to the miss with a short-field touchdown to tie the game.

Arians later let eight seconds run off the clock before calling timeout on the Titans' late field goal to end the first half. Indy needed those eight seconds as they ended up settling for a Hail Mary.

Munchak then faced a tough decision to punt with 2:52 to play and three timeouts. Had he gone for a 4th-and-10, the Titans risked giving Indy another field goal that would have pushed the lead to seven points.

Given that the Titans already needed a touchdown, he should have gone for the first down. Instead, the Colts picked up two first downs, and the game ended without Tennessee ever seeing the ball.

 

Keep An Eye On...

The Colts can theoretically compete for a division title with a couple of wins over the Texans, but honestly, it's impossible to imagine them even competing with Houston the way Indy is playing right now.

The Colts may still need one win to make the postseason, but if it doesn't come in Kansas City on the 23rd, it may not come at all.

Efforts like they had against Tennessee are great against bad teams, but the Colts won't take down a quality opponent playing like they did.

The Titans, for their part, have to see more out of Locker than what he's done so far. He has yet to play a complete game. The flashes of good are still evident, but he simply can't miss a wide-open Kendall Wright in the end zone or throw two terrible picks to two of the league's worst cornerbacks.

Assuming they lose to Green Bay, the Titans essentially have a two-game audition for players and coaches. Bad outings at home against the Jets and Jaguars could recast the state of affairs in Nashville.

A couple of wins, and the Titans finish 6-10 and can lament a few missed opportunities.

At 4-12, it's time to consider blowing the whole thing up.

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