Titans vs. Colts: Takeaways from Tennessee's 22-14 Loss to Indianapolis
It was a close one, and while the Colts led the Titans for the vast majority of the game, it was far from one-sided. Still, a loss is a loss, and with their seventh loss of the season, the Titans drop from realistic playoff contention.
Now I know that they aren't mathematically eliminated yet, but I feel pretty safe saying that the Titans won't be making the postseason at this point.
Here are some takeaways from the loss to the Colts.
1. The Titans Can't Win Without Some Serious Contributions by the Passing Unit
The Titans defense played fairly well against the Colts, holding them to 22 points (and keeping them out of the end zone for the first three quarters), and Chris Johnson had a big game too, but it wasn't enough to win the game.
Now, the running game wasn't fantastic, but Shonn Greene and Chris Johnson combined for 141 yards, which isn't bad. Ryan Fitzpatrick also rushed for 54 yards on scrambles.
Normally, that's enough to put points up, but the passing game never really got going.
Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions against the Colts and very nearly threw more. In the end, that's what ended up killing the Titans offensively.
Even when everyone else plays pretty well, if the Titans aren't getting it done in the passing game, they aren't going to win games.
2. Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene Work Best When They Are Interchanged
In the simplest sense, Chris Johnson is a speed back, and Shonn Greene is a power back. Ideally, you use your power back for short yardage situations and your speed back for open field stuff.
However, you can't just assign roles that simple to your players, or your calls become too predictable. So, you have to mix it up to keep defenses guessing.
The Titans, for a while, did that against the Colts, and it seemed to be working fairly well. They occasionally ran Johnson up the middle, and they occasionally sent Greene to the edges in rushing plays.
Now I don't think the balance was perfect, but at least they looked like they were getting close. Using two backs interchangeably can be a good way to keep both relatively fresh, and if I'm the Titans' coach, I want Johnson fresh for as long as I can have him.
Johnson won't have any breakout runs when he's more tired than the defense is. If they continue to work on balancing the rushing attack, they might finally get the kind of run game they've wanted all season.
3. Luck Just Wasn't on Their Side
The Titans were outplayed by the Colts, but they could have won were it not for a few things that just came down to bad luck.
Munchak lost a challenge which he absolutely should have won. Verner got called on a questionable pass interference play early on. The Colts fumbled the ball twice but recovered all three times. George Wilson dropped what should have been an interception.
If a few of those things had swung the Titans' way, then they very well may have won.
Now I'm not saying the Titans didn't get away with a couple of things themselves, but (no pun intended) luck was with the Colts.
4. Jurrell Casey Continues His Monster Season
Jurrell Casey increased his sack total to eight and his tackle for loss total to nine against the Colts. One of the two tackles for loss cost the Colts 11 yards, and to make the play even better, Casey tackled Darrius Heyward-Bey while carrying the man who was supposed to block him on his back.
Now just because a play is flashier doesn't make it better, but Casey has been a monster this season. He had a very impressive rookie season and a pretty good sophomore effort, despite playing through an injury.
Casey has shown no signs of slowing down, and it's not too early to take about an extension with him. As long as he's around, the Titans defensive line is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
5. Middle Linebacker Is Still a Problem
I was not impressed with Moise Fokou's performance against the Colts. He wasn't particularly bad, but a lot of plays seemed to get away from him.
One in particular that I noticed was a batted pass by Akeem Ayers. Ayers got a hand on the ball as it came out and that caused it to slow down and fly into the air before it landed, an incomplete pass, near Fokou.
If he'd dived for it, he may have gotten it, but he didn't, so it was just an incomplete pass.
Now, this was a third-down play, so an incomplete pass still ends the offensive series, but a turnover would've put the Titans much closer to the end zone, or at least field goal range, and could have altered the course of the game.
That's my problem with Fokou. He isn't bad, and he doesn't make any big mistakes, but there seems to be a lot of missed opportunities.
6. The Titans May Have Finally Found Their Kick Returner
When I was watching the game and kept seeing Washington return kicks and punts, I didn't even know who he was.
Leon Washington was only added to the team this week, after Devon Wylie had not really performed well. Washington, however, did.
Washington returned two punts for 43 yards (including one excellent return of 33 yards) and three kicks for 78 yards.
Now that isn't a mind-blowing set of numbers, but after the Titans have had so many problems with kick returners fumbling the ball, or accidentally giving the other team a safety, or being just plain bad, a performance like that is encouraging.
Washington is 31 years old, so he's probably not a long-term solution, but for this season, at least, he looks like he might finally be the dependable kick returner that the Titans have been looking for.
7. Playoffs Are out
Like I said before, the Titans aren't technically eliminated from playoff contention. The more I look at the remaining teams in the hunt, the more I think an 8-8 squad making the postseason is likely.
If that were the scenario, and the Titans were among the 8-8 teams, they'd probably get in over any of the others because they own tiebreakers with so many other squads in the hunt.
For the Titans to reach 8-8, they'd need to upset either the Broncos or the Cardinals and beat both the Texans and Jaguars. Not a likely event.
So, start looking to the draft, because the Titans' playoff hopes, for this season at least, look kaput.