INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts traveled to Arizona last week hearing Cardinals coach Bruce Arians declare his team was in playoff mode.
Now, Indianapolis is hearing the same thing from this week’s adversary, Mike Munchak.
Munchak’s Titans rebounded from a 30-27 home setback to the Colts two weeks ago with a 23-19 road win over Oakland last Sunday. At 5-6, his team trails the Colts by two games in the AFC South.
“The game at Oakland was a playoff game for us,” said Munchak. “(It was) that kind of mentality because of the last couple weeks when we lost two games, it put us in a tough spot going to Oakland.
Tennessee went to Oakland after dropping two straight games. Just prior to losing to the Colts, the Titans fell at home to Jacksonville, 29-27.
While some thought Tennessee might not recover, they did. The Titans come to Indianapolis knowing Sunday is pivotal.
“We have to win all three division games if we want any chance at winning the division,” said Munchak. “You have to win one of these games, so this is big for a lot of reasons.
“To stay alive in the Wild Card race and the playoff race in general we have to win this game.”
Indianapolis has won nine-of-10 against Tennessee, but the margins have been far from decisive. Five of those have come in one-score battles, and Indianapolis rallied from behind in the fourth quarter in each of the last three meetings with Tennessee – all wins.
The Colts scored a late touchdown in regulation at Tennessee in 2012, then scored another on the first overtime possession for a 19-13 win.
Last year, Tennessee owned a 20-7 halftime lead in Indianapolis and re-gained the advantage in the fourth quarter before two
In a league where many games are decided by an eyelash (the Colts are 14-2 in games decided by seven points or less since 2012, 5-1 this year), that has been the case of late in the series.
“The last three times we’ve played it’s come down to the fourth quarter. They’ve found a way to win, and we haven’t got it done,” said Munchak. “We have to play better. We have to play four quarters, and we have to find a way to win.”
Munchak has been in the league for most of his adult life. He has seen twists and turns for years in the Tennessee organization and knows the nature of the business, one that has his team still striving for a playoff berth.
“It shows you the league is so unpredictable,” said Munchak as his team is lodged among others at 5-6. “People say, ‘Any Given Sunday,’ and week-to-week the league changes dramatically. You start feeling sorry for yourself and all of a sudden you realize other teams are going through similar things.
“We all have the same problems. We all have injury issues. We all get bad breaks, the ball bounces the wrong way. Those types of things happen to everyone, not just you.”
The Titans arrive with a pulse the Colts hope to lessen on Sunday. The division cannot be settled. It will separate or tighten with the result.
“We’re happy we’re in a position to at least control a little bit of what happens,” said Munchak. “There’s still a lot of football to be played. We have to play a lot of good football teams, starting this weekend.
“It’s good to know we’re getting to December and we are still in a position where we can play some more football in January. It’s encouraging us. A division game means a lot and we have to come there and play a lot better.”