INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts improved to 6-3 on the year Thursday night with their 34-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans in their 2020 Week 10 matchup at Nissan Field.
The Colts battled through an up-and-down first half, heading into the break trailing by just four, 17-13, to turn in an absolutely dominant final two quarters in all three phases. The defense held Tennessee (6-3) scoreless over the final two quarters, the special teams blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, and the offense was able to take advantage of some key Titans errors — and some prime field position — to get the points needed to fly home with a convincing divisional win.
"Really proud of the way the guys played," Colts head coach Frank Reich said. "(We) had a complete team win in all three phases. Just came out aggressive, locked in.
"We knew we're coming on the road, division, a lot at stake, but really still just focused on getting better," Reich continued. "(I) just like the way that we came out and were aggressive in all three phases and the players just got it done."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Thursday's victory over the Titans:
» TRADING BLOWS: The Colts and Titans routinely find themselves in physical, tight matchups twice a year, especially since Frank Reich and Mike Vrabel took over as head coaches of their respective teams in 2018, so it was no surprise that Thursday night's game was just a continuation of that theme — especially in the first two quarters. But while the Colts seemed to have the upper hand on the stat sheet, it was the Titans who went into halftime with a 17-13 lead. That was largely due to the fact Indy had some penalty problems on defense — on one Titans first-half scoring drive, the Colts were called for four penalties alone, three of which resulted in Tennessee first downs — and then, on offense, Reich remained very aggressive on fourth down, which didn't end up playing in the Colts' favor on Indy's first drive of the game, which ended with Jordan Wilkins being stuffed on 4th and 1 from the Titans' 29-yard line. All that being said, down just four at halftime and knowing the team needed to make just a few adjustments, the Colts were a confident bunch heading into the final two quarters. "The mood was great," Reich said. "We just kind of came in and said, 'This is what we expected — a tight game.' Just going back and forth. Felt like we were able to do some things, but we needed to lock in and finish it off."
» FINISH HIM!: The Colts didn't even blink after a second failed fourth-down attempt — this time from the Tennessee 1-yard line — to open up the third quarter. In fact, it would be the defense and special teams that would spark one of the best halves of football played by the team this entire season, and it didn't take long for the offense to follow suit. Denico Autry's sack of Ryan Tannehill on third down on Tennessee's first drive of the second half would be followed by a shanked punt, setting up the Colts are the Titans' 27-yard line; Nyheim Hines would run it in from two yards out four plays later to give Indy a 20-17 lead. The Titans' next drive also ended with a punt, which was blocked by linebacker E.J. Speed and scooped up by cornerback T.J. Carrie, who ran it into the end zone from six yards out for a special teams touchdown. All of a sudden, the Colts were up 10, 27-17, with 1:52 left in the third quarter. Indy would add a Jacoby Brissett two-yard rushing touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to put a bow on a dominant second half of play for the Colts. "That's what we talk about, playing good football in all three phases," Colts linebacker Darius Leonard said. "That's what it takes to win ball games, especially on the road against a divisional opponent. That's what we did, we came out, all three phases played well and we're leaving with a 'W.' That's all that matters."
» ROOKIE BREAKOUT: While the Colts had solid contributions from several players on Thursday night, perhaps the most promising performance came from one of the youngest players on the team. Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., the Colts' second-round (34th-overall) pick in this year's NFL Draft out of USC, had a career-best seven receptions for 101 yards (14.4 avg.) on the night, and also added 21 rushing yards on a reverse play in the third quarter. While Pittman Jr. had displayed flashes of making some big plays in his first few games, Thursday night's contest was really the first time he's been able to work himself open, get the ball in space and show off his athleticism; he had receptions of 40 and 30 yards, respectively, and added a wrinkle by making a big play in the run game, too. The Colts are going to need explosive playmakers on offense in the second half of the season, and Pittman Jr. showed he can do just that on Thursday. "I feel like the game is slowing down a little bit for him," quarterback Philip Rivers said of Pittman Jr. "Certainly (it's) not too big for him. I knew that from Day 1. Just today he was just playing fast. You see him catch that shallow and turn the corner, had some other big, physical catches. It was definitely a heck of a game by him."
» HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Nyheim Hines will forever remember his 24th birthday on Thursday, as he turned in perhaps the best overall performance of his career to date. The third-year running back out of N.C. State was effective as a rusher — he led the Colts with 12 rushing attempts for 70 yards (5.4 avg.) and a touchdown — and as a receiver — he had five receptions for 45 yards and another score through the air. By virtue of his performance on Thursday, Hines became the only NFL running back this season have more than one game with at least one rushing and receiving touchdown. Hines has always tried to take advantage of his opportunities, whether in the run game, the pass game or as a returner, and said the best part about having a big game like he did Thursday is it continues to make the Colts' offense even more dangerous and unpredictable. "Every week I work hard, I prepare, and I really feel like each week I make the most of each opportunity," Hines said. "(Even if) I touch the ball twice or three times, I feel like every game I somehow make a play and try to have a positive impact on the team. That's how our team is. One week it may be JT (Jonathan Taylor). The next week it may be Jordan (Wilkins), then tonight it was me. We're hard to prepare for but really just have to make the most of the opportunity."
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— Indianapolis recorded a blocked punt and returned it for a touchdown. It was the team's first blocked punt returned for a touchdown since Week 13 of 2010. The touchdown marked Indianapolis' fifth defensive or special teams touchdown this season, which is the most in the NFL
— According to NFL Research, Nyheim Hines is only the second player since at least 1948 to have his first career game of 100-plus scrimmage yards and two-plus touchdown fall on their birthday (Samkon Gado in Week 10 of 2005).
Click here to check out more stats and notes from Thursday's victory over the Titans, courtesy of Colts Communications.
See all the action on the field at Nissan Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts take on the Tennessee Titans for Thursday Night Football.
Colts fans can catch the re-air of Thursday's Week 10 win over the Tennessee Titans on WTTV4.2 this Wednesday at 8pm presented by POWERHOME SOLAR.