INDIANAPOLIS – A strong second half comeback two weeks ago in Tennessee produced a big triumph for the Colts.
The 30-27 victory came after Indianapolis trailed twice by 14 points in the first half. It became a bit more significant last week when the Colts lost and the Titans won.
The week 12 results moved Tennessee back within two games of Indianapolis with five to go. The Colts have owned or shared the division lead since week three and now is no time to relinquish more ground.
A victory Sunday would not seal the division crown, but it would move the Colts much closer to their first such title since 2010.
Beating the Titans would cap a Thanksgiving week, and here are SEVEN VICTORY KEYS:
SCORE FIRST – While comebacks by the Colts have shown that early leads don’t always hold up, the last four opponents all have scored TDs within the first five minutes of the game. Three times, the Colts’ offense has taken the field down 7-0, and the other time St. Louis scored on a takeaway. Two of the last four opponents have reached the end zone on their two opening drives. For nothing but the chance to have a first-half lead for the first time since October, it would be nice to score first.
FIRST HALF THIRD DOWNS – This point is plagiarized with the exact wording from last week, but rarely has a problem stood out so dramatically. Last week at Arizona, Indianapolis failed to produce first downs on five-of-six first-half possessions. Indianapolis was zero-for-five in the opening half while falling behind by 27 points. In the first halves of the last four games (when the Colts have not led at any point), the club has converted 12 percent (three-of-25) of its first-half third down attempts. It has led to three-and-outs on 11-of-24 possessions, plus another with a turnover on a drive’s second play. When the Colts got untracked at Tennessee, they had four 10-plus play drives that all accounted for at least four first downs, more than 21 minutes of possession time and for 20 of their 30 points. Finding such a flow early could hinge on converting third downs.
NO FITZ – Ryan Fitzpatrick was 22-of-28 passing in the first meeting, plus got loose for 26 yards on four rushes. He was able to convert three third downs via passes in opening with two TD drives. For the game, he targeted Delanie Walker and Kendall Wright on 22 of his attempts, hitting them 19 times for 171 yards and a TD. Most were underneath passes that gained healthy yards after the catch. Fitzpatrick could visit that well again, and Carson Palmer dabbled some in that approach last Sunday. He has other threats in Justin Hunter and Nate Washington, plus Fitzpatrick has nailed 71.8 percent of his passes with a 5:0 TD:int ratio in the last three games (110.7 rating). He bears watching, given the recent success of QBs.
CALLING BILLY RAY BATES? – The Colts need some production beyond
MEMO TO PLAYERS: HANG TIGHT – This is a very close team that is battling through adversity. It is a locker room of character, and that reservoir has been called upon many times. Not every game goes smoothly, we’ve seen that. If a storm needs to be weathered, rely on your brotherhood. It’s worked before. It will be a stadium of anxious fans, but the 12th Man is there. Hang tough.
QUOTE TO NOTE (
“It’s huge. In my short career so far, I’ve realized that every game is huge in the NFL, especially when it’s a division game at home against a salty, good team in Tennessee. It’s always fun to play them because we know it’s going to be a heavyweight fight.”