1. The Colts fell behind early and lost the turnover battle.
The Colts left no margin for error against the Tennessee Titans in large part because of two factors: One, turning the ball over three times and having zero takeaways; second, falling behind 24-3 midway through the second quarter.
"When you lose the turnover battle the way we did and started the way we did, put ourselves behind the hole, and just not good enough," head coach Frank Reich said. "I'm proud of how we fought back, gave ourselves a chance at the end, but at the end of the day, not good enough."
The Colts also struggled to run the ball, with running back Jonathan Taylor (20 carries, 42 yards) held under three yards per carry for only the fourth time in his career. But the combination of falling behind early and losing the turnover battle 3-0 significantly increased the level of difficultly the Colts had to face throughout Sunday afternoon.
"You can find a way when you're down 17 to get the job done, but it makes it extremely difficult," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "Your margin for error from that point on is like zero. It's not a place you want to be often. Sometimes you're there and you've got to find a way and you've got to be resilient. But it does, it makes it very difficult to overcome, and it's certainly not what we're – it's not the intent going out there. We'd love to play from in front."
So far this season, the Colts have had 22 first-half possessions on which they've turned the ball over as many times (five) as they've scored (two touchdowns, three field goals); the other 12 drives have resulted in a punt or a turnover on downs. As a result, the Colts have been losing at halftime by an average of just over 10 points in their first four games.
The Colts battled back from three-score first-half deficits to tie the Houston Texans in Week 1, and had multiple chances to tie the Titans in Week 4. But this is a team that expects to avoid needing to put those comebacks together in the first place.
"We have to start better," running back Nyheim Hines said. "We have to run the ball better, we have to stay on the field. We can't keep putting Matt in positions where you got to drive us back down 14 or whatever it is. But it's really just been the offense. The defense has done their part, I think the defense has been (good). I don't think they scored in the second half today."
2. Team-wide, though, there were some encouraging things.
Let's pick up where Hines left off here with the Colts' defense, which didn't allow a point in the second half and only allowed three first downs. The Titans gained 39 yards on 20 second half plays and punted on their first four possessions, allowing the Colts' offense a number of opportunities to get back into the game.
"The league is all about adjusting to the adjustments," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "I think we do a great job of making adjustments and as players and coaches, I just think for us it's setting that tone, when we come out, just playing better off the rip so we don't have to always work back from something."
(The Colts did allow 24 first-half points; Tennessee needed to gain more than 45 yards on one of their four scoring drives.)
On offense, Ryan threw for 356 yards – his second game with 350 or more passing yards in four games this season – while the Colts averaged 5.8 yards per play, more than a yard greater than the Titans' average of 4.7. The Colts converted 54 percent of their third downs, higher than the Titans' clip of 42 percent.
Those are all things the Colts believe they can build on as the season progresses. But to build on them, first they need to eliminate the kind of self-inflicted mistakes that led to Sunday's loss to the Titans.
"Still feel all of our goals are out in front of us," Reich said. "I feel like we're seeing some things that we want to see. We just need to play better. We need to execute better. We need to stop turning the ball over, and we need to get more turnovers, and we need to run the football a little bit better and start faster."
3. The Colts' tight ends had a fantastic afternoon in the receiving game.
Every Colts tight end set at least one career high on Sunday:
- Mo Alie-Cox: Six receptions (his 65 yards were his second-highest total; his two touchdowns tied a career high)
- Kylen Granson: Four receptions, 62 yards
- Jelani Woods: 33 receiving yards (his one catch was a career-long, too)
Notably, Alie-Cox, Granson and Woods caught all 11 of their combined targets, and they all showed the kind of physicality needed to compete with a rugged Titans defense.
"Great for the tight ends, of course, but definitely still disappointed. We lost," Alie-Cox said. "At the end of the day, I could care less if I had two, three, four touchdowns — I'm trying to win the football game no matter what.
"... It definitely felt good to make plays, especially all three of us made plays, but when it comes down to it we just want to get the win."
The Colts take on the Tennessee Titans in an AFC South Divisional matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
4. Will Fries tagged in at right guard.
The Colts made a switch on their offensive line for Week 4, with 2021 seventh-round pick Will Fries starting in place of Danny Pinter at right guard.
"Tough decision," Reich said. "We like Danny. You hate to pull a guy, especially a guy like Danny. It's always a week-to-week thing. It's a week-to-week thing.
"We just felt it was more about Will and that he had earned the right to get a shot to see what he could do. He's been looking good in practice. We thought he earned an opportunity to see what he could do, and we'll take a look at the tape and evaluate it from there."
According to Pro Football Focus, Fries allowed two pressures in 42 pass blocking snaps.
Notably – and this goes for the entire pass protection group – the Colts did not allow an unblocked pressures on Sunday. Those were an issue in Week 3 against the Chiefs.
5. Shaquille Leonard and Jonathan Taylor sustained injuries.
Leonard is in the concussion protocol while Taylor sustained an ankle injury on a third-and-two play on which he lost a fumble in the fourth quarter. Taylor said his ankle is "feeling good" but with just three full days between Sunday's Week 4 game and Thursday's Week 5 game against the Denver Broncos, his status will be closely watched this week.
The Colts will release practice reports – which are usually estimations of a player's participation if there were practice, since teams generally conduct walkthroughs ahead of Thursday Night Football – on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Wednesday's practice report will include final game designations (questionable/doubtful/out).
The Colts have arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium ahead of their Week 4 AFC South Divisional matchup versus the Tennessee Titans.