INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts fell to 7-4 on the year on Sunday with their 45-26 loss to the Tennessee Titans in their 2020 Week 12 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The two teams found themselves knotted at 14 early in the second quarter before Tennessee absolutely took control, reaching the end zone three more times before halftime — to zero touchdowns for the Colts — to take a 35-14 lead going into the break. While Indy's defense was mostly able to respond from that point on, the damage had been done. The offense couldn't get anything going outside of its first couple drives, and then a rare gaffe by the Indy special teams unit late — an onside kick that was returned by Titans receiver A.J. Browns for a touchdown — was the final blow to this Week 12 rivalry matchup.
"Obviously, tough loss," Colts head coach Frank Reich said. "(We) came in here feeling confident, feeling prepared and was just a very poor effort — got outplayed, got outcoached, really in all three phases, so not good enough."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's loss to the Titans:
» MAKINGS OF A SHOOTOUT: The Titans methodically moved the ball down the field on their first drive and scored a touchdown. The Colts answered with a touchdown of their own on their first drive. Tennessee then quickly scored another touchdown, and Indy responded with a quick drive and another touchdown, too. At the 12:51 mark of the second quarter, the Colts and Titans were tied at 14 apiece, and neither team's offense showed any signs of slowing down — Tennessee primarily with its rushing attack, led by Derrick Henry, and Indianapolis primarily getting it done through the air. The back-and-forth nature at that point in the ballgame was similar to 17 days prior, when the Colts took on the Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., and the two teams traded scores — either touchdowns or field goals — six times over the first two quarters before the Colts eventually took control late in the third quarter and ended up earning a 17-point road victory. This time, however, it would be the Titans taking control as the road team. Speaking of…
» FLIP THE SWITCH: While the Colts haven't been too consistent in the first quarter of games this season, they've seemed to figure out a way to turn the tide in the second quarter and moving forward; in that period, Indy this year has scored 105 points and allowed just 75 (30-point difference), and that has continued into the third quarter (55-27 advantage) and fourth quarter (68-51 advantage). But on Sunday it was the Titans who used the Colts' usual strength against them. (No) thanks to a potent running attack featuring Henry, some shaky, undisciplined defense and an all-of-a-sudden stalling offense when they had the ball, the Colts on Sunday went from being tied at 14 early in the third quarter to going into the halftime break trailing by 21, 35-14. While the Colts' defense did make some nice second-half adjustments to stop the bleeding in that regard, their offense just couldn't quite find its rhythm, and then the special teams unit had a rare miscue when it allowed A.J. Brown to sprint 42 yards untouched into the end zone on a late onside kick attempt. The end result was a 45-26 whoopin'. "If we want to reach our goals this year, we have to correct that," Colts linebacker Anthony Walker said of the team's slow starts, particularly on defense. "It shouldn't take us getting punched in the mouth for us to come out and respond. We have to throw the first punch and we understand that. This is a boxing match at the end of the day, and if we don't throw the first punch and we get hit in our mouth, and that continuously happens then it needs to get corrected."
» NOTABLE INJURIES: Unfortunately for the Colts, the loss to the Titans potentially came at a price beyond just the race atop the AFC South standings. Indy already came into the game missing two offensive starters or key pieces in center Ryan Kelly (neck) and running back Jonathan Taylor (Reserve/COVID-19 list), and three defensive starters in Denico Autry and DeForest Buckner (Reserve/COVID-19 list) and Bobby Okereke (ankle), but then starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo left the game early on and was originally labeled as questionable to return with a knee injury before he was downgraded out for the rest of the contest. Reich said after the game that while they'll need to await further testing before making a decision at left tackle, Castonzo's injury is not preliminarily expected to be too serious. "I don't think it's the worst-case scenario," Reich said of Castonzo. "That's all I know for right now. I'm not feeling like that's the case." The Colts also saw safety Khari Willis go down with injuries to his back and quad, and he didn't return. Stay tuned for Reich's usual Monday afternoon media availability for some possible updates on these two key pieces on both sides of the ball in Castonzo and Willis, as well as possible injury updates on the players who weren't able to make it to Sunday's contest.
» PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS: According to fivethirtyeight.com, Indianapolis entered the day Sunday with a 77-percent chance of earning a spot in the postseason and a 56-percent shot at winning the division. The Colts' loss dropped their overall playoff chances to 55 percent, and their chances of taking home the AFC South title now to 14 percent. What hurts the Colts' chances the most is their 3-4 record against AFC teams so far, as well as their 1-2 divisional record, all of which could come into play in a potential tiebreaker scenario at the end of the regular season. But while we can certainly take a look forward at what's next over the next few weeks, for the Colts' players and coaches, the team itself is staying locked in on the "one game at a time" mindset, as they immediately begin preparations to travel to take on the Houston Texans next week. "As big as this one was, it's one game," Rivers said. "It's just like we talked about a few weeks ago: it's a week-to-week league. A huge win against Tennessee on the road. Huge win against the Packers and now here we sit. Now what are we?"
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— Running back Nyheim Hines passed Edgerrin James (149) for the second-most receptions by a Colts running back and the sixth-most by a Colts player in their first three seasons.
— Linebacker Darius Leonard recorded his 18th-career game with 10 or more tackles and tied Jerrell Freeman for the third-most games with 10 or more tackles in Colts history since at least 1987.
Click here to check out more stats and notes from Sunday's loss to the Titans, courtesy of Colts Communications.
Colts fans can catch the re-air of Sunday's Week 12 matchup against the Tennessee Titans on WTTV4.2 this Wednesday at 8pm presented by POWERHOME SOLAR.
See all the action on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts host the Tennessee Titans in Week 12.