Five Things Learned: Colts-Titans (2019, Week 13)

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts fell to 6-6 on the season Sunday with their 31-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans in their 2019 Week 13 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Colts had jumped out to a 17-7 lead with 10:23 left in the third quarter, but the Titans (7-5) took over from there, using big plays in all three phases to go on a 24-0 run to take over second place in the AFC South Division heading into the final four games of the season.

“Tough loss,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “We had a good week of practice; I thought we were ready. It was a close game, and then just had some critical mistakes along the way in all three phases. And those mistakes aren’t attributed to any one person — we all share in those. I know this locker room is together, win or lose, as a team. And today I give the Titans credit — they outplayed us.”

Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday’s loss to the Titans:

» THREE PHASES: The Colts saw the Titans use big plays in all three phases to fight their way back from a 17-7 deficit early in the third quarter. It started with a well-rounded Tennessee offense, which saw Derrick Henry, who had 149 rushing yards on the afternoon, find the end zone with a 13-yard run to cut Indy’s lead to 17-14. Then came special teams, which saw kicker Ryan Succop nail a 31-yard field goal to tie the game at 17 late in the third quarter before the Titans registered their second blocked field goal of the afternoon with a little more than five minutes left in the fourth quarter; this time, Tye Smith scooped it up and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown to give Tennessee a 24-17 lead. Then, defensively, the Titans would pick off an errant Jacoby Brissett pass on the ensuing drive — his second interception of the day — and three plays later, quarterback Ryan Tannehill would find wide receiver Kalif Raymond over the top in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown, giving Tennessee its final 31-17 lead with 3:02 left in the fourth quarter. “Any play can change the game,” Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal said. “We had a couple missed field goals, couple blocked field goals and they returned one for a touchdown. Shout out to them. They played a fourth-quarter game. They’re a good football team over there — good defense and they were the better team tonight.”

» NEED HELP: The Colts’ loss on Sunday to the Titans doesn’t completely dash Indy’s playoff hopes, but now they’ll need all kinds of help to get back into the playoff picture in the AFC, either within the AFC South Division or as a wild card. The Houston Texans, at 8-4 after a big win over the New England Patriots last night on Sunday Night Football, are in control in the division, while the Titans, with their win over the Colts, are still on the outside looking in as the current No. 7 seed. But all the Colts can control from this point is how they respond over their final four games; Reich said owner Jim Irsay challenged his team after the game to figure out a way to go 4-0 from this point to finish 10-6. If that happens, according to PlayoffStatus.com, the Colts have a 76 percent chance of making the postseason. But if they go even 3-1 the rest of the way and finish 9-7, Indy’s playoff chances decrease to just 18 percent. “Either way, whether (a 10-6 record) gets us in or not, our approach doesn’t change,” Reich said. “And so what we talk about is we play for each other, we believe in each other, and that’s what we’re continuing to do.”

» ‘CHUNK PLAYS’: The primary ingredient missing from the Colts’ Week 12 loss to the Texans was a lack of success down the field in the passing game; Indy defines a “chunk” passing play as a throw that nets at least 16 yards, and Indy that night was shut out in that category. Brissett & Co. were able to reverse that trend on Sunday against the Titans, however, as Indy had nine chunk passing plays of 16 or more yards, its second-best performance of the season in this category. Brissett finished Sunday’s game completing 25-of-40 passes for 319 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for a 74.9 overall passer rating. With top receivers T.Y. Hilton (calf) and Parris Campbell (hand) already out heading into the game, and with another wide receiver, Chester Rogers, knocked out of the game early in the first quarter with a knee injury, others certainly stepped up Sunday, including Pascal (seven receptions, 109 yards), tight end Jack Doyle (six receptions, 73 yards, touchdown) and wide receiver Marcus Johnson (four receptions, 55 yards). “Just trusting it — great schemes, guys getting open and guys getting plays,” Brissett said of the gameplan against the Titans. “So, that’s what it was.”

» DOMINANT HALF: The Colts’ defensive performance over the first two quarters, heading into the third quarter, was a big reason why Indy was able to jump out to a 10-point lead, 17-7, in the first place on Sunday. In the first two quarters alone, the Colts’ defense allowed just 118 net yards, just 55 of which came through the air; it forced, and recovered two Tennessee fumbles; and sacked Tannehill five times. In all, the Colts would tally a season-high six sacks, as Darius Leonard (2.0 sacks), Bobby Okereke (one sack), Jabaal Sheard (one sack), Anthony Walker (0.5 sacks), Denico Autry (0.5 sacks), George Odum (0.5 sacks) and Kenny Moore II (0.5 sacks) would all be responsible for bringing Tannehill down to the turf. Okereke added his first strip sack, which was recovered by Justin Houston, while Walker forced a fumble on Henry on the Titans’ very first play from scrimmage, which was recovered by Malik Hooker.

NOTES OF INTEREST:

— Titans running back Derrick Henry rushed for 149 yards and ended a streak of 29 consecutive games where the Colts defense did not allow a 100-yard rusher. The streak dated back to 2017 and was the second longest active streak in the NFL (New Orleans, 33).

— See more stats and notes from Sunday’s game by clicking here.

See all the action on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts host the Tennessee Titans in week 13 of the 2019 regular season.

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