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Five Things Learned

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5 Things Learned: Colts vs. Titans, Week 3

The Colts are remaining confident and aren't panicking after losing, 25-16, to the Titans to fall to 0-3 on the season.


1. Carson Wentz displayed remarkable toughness.

Once Carson Wentz was physically cleared to play, and once he communicated to head coach Frank Reich that he was mentally ready to play, there was no hesitation from the Colts to start him at quarterback on Sunday. And Wentz gritted through 61 snaps with two sprained ankles.

"The guy's a warrior, man," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "He didn't want to let his team down and he did whatever it took to get out there on the field today. We're proud of him. We rallied behind him. It just shows his willingness to win." 

Wentz didn't want to put an estimate on what percentage at which he was playing on Sunday, but figured it wasn't the most physically limited game in which he's played in his career. Still, that Wentz was willing to tough it out to try to get a win against the Titans was a big takeaway for his teammates on Sunday.

"He's tough as nails," running back Nyheim Hines said. "Played a great game."

2. The Colts know they need to be better situationally.

The Colts have had eight possessions this season reach a goal-to-go set of downs, yet have only scored touchdowns three times on those drives. On Sunday, the Colts had two goal-to-go situations and did not score a touchdown on either.

This isn't a perfect stat, since the Colts got into the end zone on Hines' nine-yard touchdown – a play that did not come on a goal-to-go down. But leaving touchdowns on the board in those two goal-to-go spots, both of which were in the second half, left a lingering feeling of frustration with the Colts.

"Really, it's just execution," Hines said. "The offense, in the red zone, we've got to execute. Frank calls what he calls, and as the offense, no matter what he calls we have to execute. That's starting with everybody – offensive line, QBs, running backs, receiver – we have to execute. I think we played a great game for the most part, but the situational ball is where we need to execute better."

The Colts only converted three of 12 third down tries, too; the average distance to the sticks on those plays was 6.6 yards, and those three conversions came on the team's only three tries on third-and-3-or-fewer. The Colts did pick up first downs on a pair of fourth-and-one tries after failing to convert on third down, so that 3/12 number is a little misleading.

But since the start of the 2020 season, teams that convert 25 percent or fewer or their third downs are 24-63-1. Conversely: The Titans converted 50 percent of their third downs and picked up a first down on their only fourth down try of the game.

"It's situational football, taking advantage of those opportunities," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "We have to get off the field, we have to make a play on offense. The past three weeks that's kind of been the deal."

3. A standout on either side of the ball: Nyheim Hines on offense, Rock Ya-Sin on defense.

Hines made a couple of big plays when the Colts needed them most. First, he accelerated to the edge for a nine-yard touchdown on the Colts' first red zone possession of the afternoon; in the fourth quarter, he ripped off a 36-yard gain by breaking a few tackles and using his vision and speed to get the Colts back into the red zone (that drive ended with a field goal).

"We laughed because I've competed against him three years in college, so I knew exactly what he was when we were in college, and now in the league to be able to get better with him every single day," linebacker Zaire Franklin, who played for Syracuse while Hines was at N.C. State, said. "Obviously, he is a special talent both running and receiving the ball. He is a unique threat and I don't know if there is anyone like him in the league. Thankful he is on our team and I ain't chasing him around in some other stadium."

On defense, Sunday was Rock Ya-Sin's highest-graded game by Pro Football Focus of his career (90.3). He played well in coverage and his forced fumble on Nick Westbrook-Ikhine was a massive moment, with it coming shortly after the Titans entered the red zone late in the third quarter.

Ya-Sin left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.

4. The Colts' emphasis on tackling Derrick Henry paid off.

You might've read that and just said to yourself, but wait, Henry went for 113 yards, didn't he?

Well, yeah, he did. But he did it on 28 carries, meaning he averaged four yards per attempt. Since the start of the 2018 season, Henry is averaging five yards per attempt. It wasn't as efficient a day as Henry usually has.

In particular, the Colts' defensive backs tackled well. Julian Blackmon led the Colts with 11 tackles and Kenny Moore II chipped in with seven; neither missed a tackle, per Pro Football Focus. The Colts' run stop leaders – meaning these plays constituted a loss for the Titans' offense:

  • Kenny Moore II (4)
  • Al-Quadin Muhammed (3)
  • Grover Stewart (3)
  • Darius Leonard (2)
  • Bobby Okereke (2)
  • Zaire Franklin (2)
  • Antwaun Woods (2)
  • Tyquan Lewis (2)

And maybe the biggest piece of evidence the Colts' run defense played well in Week 3: Sunday marked the seventh time since the start of the 2018 season that Henry had 28 or more rushing attempts in a game. The 113 yards he gained were his fewest with that level of volume; when he's had 28+ carries, he's averaging 5.3 yards per carry on those.

5. There are a few injury updates to watch this week.

Defensive end Kwity Paye (hamstring) and left guard Quenton Nelson (ankle) both were injured in the first half and ruled out; in the second half, Ya-Sin (ankle) and safety Khari Willis (groin) exited and did not return.

And Wentz will return to his cycle of treatment and rehab as he and the Colts work to keep progressing his ankles closer and closer to being 100 percent as soon as possible.

"I'm very confident how quickly it's already (healed) from not being able to really walk the first two days this week to playing today," Wentz said. "I'm very confident that we can progress this thing along."

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