INDIANAPOLIS —The Indianapolis Colts on Sunday fell to the Tennessee Titans, 20-16, in their Week 12 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
What's top of mind for the Colts after falling to 3-8 on the year?
The script remains the same.
Coming off their late-season bye week, the Indianapolis Colts were hoping to use Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans as a way to catapult them into bigger and better things for their last six games of the 2017 regular season.
But instead, the Colts learned on Sunday that their second-half woes from their first 10 games weren't going to be a thing of the past.
Indianapolis led at halftime against the Titans, marking the ninth time in 11 games the team has been ahead or had a share of the lead through two quarters this season. For a fifth time in those scenarios in 2017, however, the end result would be a loss, as the Colts fell, 20-16, and have been swept by the Titans in a season series for the first time since the 2002 season.
It's the play that undoubtedly changed the momentum on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Leading by 10 points, 16-6, late in the third quarter, the Colts had the ball in their own territory with an opportunity to put together a potentially crushing drive for their division rivals if they could find a way to put the ball in the end zone.
But on 2nd and 10 from the Indianapolis 17-yard line, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett attempted a toss play to running back Marlon Mack, who showed a misdirection look at first to his right before taking off to his left. Mack mishandled the toss, however, around his own 10-yard line, and he was unable to recover, as free safety Kevin Byard dove on the ball at the Colts' four-yard line.
After an offsides call on the Indianapolis defense, the Titans would find the end zone one play later on a two-yard pass from Marcus Mariota to tight end Delanie Walker, getting once again to within three points, 16-13, heading into the decisive fourth quarter.
The lost fumble wasn't the only issue late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter for the Colts, but it certainly was just the latest of many key second-half miscues that have undoubtedly led to six of Indy's eight losses on the season.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Except for, really, one drive late in the game, the Colts' defense was extremely solid on Sunday.
One prime example came on two straight Titans possessions in the second quarter that resulted in interceptions by the Indianapolis secondary, the second of which directly led to a then-key touchdown late in the first half.
After cornerback Rashaan Melvin intercepted Mariota midway through the second quarter, which led to a Adam Vinatieri 28-yard field goal to tie the game at 6-all, it was Nate Hairston's turn to make a play.
On 2nd and 10 from the Tennessee 25-yard line, Mariota dropped back and found outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard, who had bull-rushed his offensive lineman, right in his grill, so he quickly fired a pass to his left, which sailed on wide receiver Taywan Taylor, who also tripped on the play.
Right there to make a play was safety Darius Butler, but he juggled the sure interception and the ball started to fall in front of him. Rookie cornerback Nate Hairston was in the right place at the right time to pluck the ball out of the air however, and he return it 10 yards to the Tennessee 35-yard line for his first-career pick.
Six plays later, the Colts were able to run their two-minute offense to perfection, as Frank Gore ran the ball 14 yards into the end zone for a touchdown, giving Indianapolis its first lead of the day, 13-6, with just 42 seconds remaining in the first half.
Heck of a play by Hairston, as the fifth-round pick out of Temple continues to shine as the Colts' nickel cornerback. He finished his day with five tackles, two passes defensed and that aforementioned interception.
Jack Doyle and "Unsung Hero" are often one in the same, which was once again a theme for the Colts on Sunday.
The fifth-year Western Kentucky product, who has been one of the league's leaders not only in receptions by a tight end, but in receptions by *any *player, got himself open time and time again against the Titans, logging a game-best seven receptions for 94 yards — an average of 13.4 yards per reception.
Doyle's best play on the day came late in the third quarter. On 2nd and 7 from the Colts' 28-yard line, Brissett lined up under center and delivered a short pass to his left to Doyle, but the tight end had plenty of room in front of him and gained 26 yards on the play, getting to the Tennessee 46-yard line.
Doyle, who came into the game with the second-most receptions among all tight ends and the 14th-most among all NFL players, now has 59 receptions for 544 yards and two touchdowns. His 59 receptions ties his single-season career high, which he set last season, while he sits just 41 yards away from eclipsing his single-season career-best 584 receiving yards, also from 2016.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
• The Colts' defense had one of its best first-half performances in recent memory on Sunday, holding the Titans and their usually-potent rushing attack to nine net rushing yards in the first two quarters, the lowest total for Tennessee this season and the lowest first-half total for a Colts opponent since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had six rushing yards in the first half against Indianapolis on Oct. 7, 2007. The Titans also had just three rushing yards through the first three quarters.
• The aforementioned interceptions by the Colts on two straight Titans possessions was the first time the Indy defense had accomplished that feat in the first half of play since Nov. 16, 2014, against the New England Patriots.
• The team saw the return of safety Clayton Geathers, who was making his 2017 debut, and outside linebacker John Simon, who missed the previous three games with a stinger injury in his neck. Geathers, who had offseason neck surgery, was used sparingly on defense and was a protector for the Colts in their punt formation on Sunday; he had a would-be third-down sack on the Titans' first possession of the game, but the play was nullified due to a holding call in the Colts' secondary. Simon, meanwhile, finished with one tackle on the day.
• Kicker Adam Vinatieri convered all three of his field goal attempts on the day and finished with 10 points in all. It's the fourth time the season Vinatieri has hit three or more attempts in a game.
• The Colts' defense held the Titans to a 3-for-8 (38 percent) success rate on third down, and Tennessee got touchdowns in two of its four red zone appearances. The Colts also won the turnover (2-1) as well as the time of possession (31:22 to 28:38) battles.
WHAT WENT WRONG
• Indianapolis, which has been the league's worst team in the red zone this season, scored a touchdown on just 1-of-4 trips within the Tennessee 20-yard line on Sunday. The Colts were also 0-for-2 in goal-to-goal situations, compared to 2-for-2 for Tennessee.
• The Titans had eight sacks on the day, including six in the first half. It looks bad for the Indy offensive line, but it's not all on them; sometimes Brissett didn't get the ball out quick enough, sometimes blocks were missed by other offensive players, and other times the receivers just couldn't work their way open. Not a great overall performance for a Colts' offense which allowed 10 sacks to Jacksonville in their last home AFC South matchup.
• The penalties were killer again on Sunday for Indy, which was flagged nine times for 67 yards. Conversely, the Titans had two accepted penalties for 15 yards.
• Colts' top receiver T.Y. Hilton was held in check by the Titans once again, as he caught just two passes for 15 yards on five total targets. Hilton had just one catch for 19 yards in the Colts' Week 6 loss at Tennessee.
The following players were injured during Sunday's game:
• Cornerback Rashaan Melvin (hand); didn't return.
• Center Ryan Kelly (concussion); didn't return.WHAT'S NEXT
The Colts travel to take on the Jaguars next Sunday at EverBank Field. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET on CBS. Indianapolis hopes to avenge its 27-0 Week 7 loss to the Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Photos from the week 12 game against the Tennessee Titans.