Don't Laugh, But 0-4 Titans Are a Huge Test for the Colts

Nick SouthCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 27:  Chris Johnson #28 of The Tennessee Titans in action against The New York Jetsduring their game on September 27, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The 4-0 Colts visit the 0-4 Titans. Sounds like the ultimate mismatch. The Titans are in complete free fall after losing by 20 to a very average Jacksonville Jaguar team. The Colts are riding high, winning the last two games by an average of 19 points. 

Lock of the week, right?

It'll be the Colts third night game of the young season. Surely you haven't forgotten the first night game played by Indianapolis. However, considering how long the Colts had the ball on offense, it would be understandable if you forgot.

Andy Warhol would have been proud of the Colts' 15 minutes of fame. Actually, in a little less than 15 minutes, the Colts offense produced enough points to edge past Miami a little over two Sundays ago.

Save for Manning's heroics, the story of the game could have easily been the Dolphins' domination in the running game.

Forgive the pun, but the Wildcat mauled the Colts' defense for 239 yards.

Time heals all wounds, as the saying goes, but two weeks seems like a short period of time. Since that mugging in Miami, the Colts defense has allowed just 51 yards rushing per game. Impressive, though it's tarnished a bit when you realize they were facing Tim Hightower and Julius Jones.

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This Sunday night, they face Chris Johnson and LenDale White.

The Titans have the league's seventh rated rushing offense. They are second in yards per carry. What should worry the Colts isn't so much the stats of how the Titans have run, but of how the Titans actually do run.

Miami is a rushing team built to run between and outside the tackles. Their running backs have a great ability to find the gaps and their offensive line is great at creating them.

It's almost laughable to suggest Arizona has a running game, so it's hard to take the Colts holding them to 24 yards on the ground seriously.

Seattle? Well, the Colts are actually built to stop runners like Jones—a speed runner who is most comfortable getting to the outside. Good performance, but hardly impressive.

In fact, if you watched the game closely, you noticed that one Seattle runner ran the ball fairly effectively in limited duty. The ex-Colt Edgerrin James averaged four yards on his four attempts.


Because he ran it straight into the gaps and between the tackles. North-south runners have historically given the Colts trouble.

Johnson and White may be the best north-south running tandem in the league. Sure, Johnson likes to break wide when he can, but he's one of the few smaller backs that's productive between the hashes.

How the night will go will be decided on the first offensive possession for the Titans.

Where safeties Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea line up will tell you what to expect for the evening.

Against Miami, even when they were in the Wildcat formation, Bullitt and Bethea played deep. Often it was them coming up to make a play, but not after the Dolphin runners have sliced through the front seven.

If defensive coordinator Larry Coyer has the safeties deep again to respect the pass, expect a frequent dose of Johnson and White.

If the safeties do play deep, what exactly are they respecting? A 36-year-old journeyman quarterback with a 68.9 passer rating and six interceptions in four games? This is what scares them?

Yes, Kerry Collins' story was a nice one in 2008. The old castoff made good with the Titans and led them to the best record in the AFC. However, 2008 was the first year Collins had finished with a passer rating of over 80 since 2002.

There's a reason Tennessee is his fifth team. Collins simply isn't consistent.

His completion percentage is his worst in four years. His average yards per attempt are his worst since the Clinton administration. Even when not taking a sack against Jacksonville last week, Collins still only managed a paltry 5.9 yards per toss.

Coyer, this game has eight men in the box written all over it. 

Otherwise, it could be another long night on the field for the Colts' defense.