A Capsule Look at Sunday's Colts-Titans Game
COLTS (11-4) vs. TITANS (13-2)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EST
Lucas Oil Stadium
Colts – Tony Dungy, seventh season as Colts Head Coach (84-27, 91-32 including playoffs) and 12th season as NFL Head Coach (138-69, 147-78 including playoffs).
Titans – Jeff Fisher, 15th season as Titans and NFL Head Coach (127-101, 132-105 including playoffs).
Colts – 11-4, 2nd in AFC South.
Titans – 13-2, 1st in AFC South.
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS
Colts – 2007.
Titans – 2007.
2008 NFL RANKINGS
Offense – Overall, 15th (331.9 yards per game); Rushing, 31st (76.9 ypg); Passing, 5th (255.0 ypg); Defense – Overall, 11th (323.3 yards per game); Rushing, 23rd (125.5 ypg); Passing, 10th (197.8 ypg).
Offense – Overall, 18th (326.3 yards per game); Rushing, 6th (141.1 ypg); Passing, 24th (185.2 ypg); Defense – Overall, 5th (287.2 yards per game); Rushing, 4th (91.9 ypg); Passing, 8th (195.3 ypg).
Colts – Peyton Manning (364-548 completions, 3,907 yards, 66.4 pct., 26 TD, 12 INT, 93.8 passer rating).
Titans – Kerry Collins (241-413 completions, 2,677 yards, 58.4 pct., 12 TD, 7 INT, 80.3 passer rating).
Colts – Joseph Addai (154 carries, 540 yards, 5 TD); Dominic Rhodes (152 carries, 538 yards, 6 TD).
Titans – Chris Johnson (251 carries, 1,228 yards, 9 TD), LenDale White (193 carries, 748 yards, 15 TD).
Colts – Reggie Wayne (81 receptions, 1,130 yards, 6 TD); Dallas Clark (71 receptions, 789 yards, 6 TD); Anthony Gonzalez (56 receptions, 652 yards, 4 TD); Marvin Harrison (53 receptions, 605 yards, 5 TD).
Titans – Bo Scaife (57 receptions, 554 yards, 2 TD), Chris Johnson (43 receptions, 260 yards, 1 TD), Brandon Jones (39 receptions, 436 yards, 1 TD), Justin Gage (34 receptions, 651 yards, 6 TD).
Colts – Robert Mathis (11.5), Dwight Freeney (10.5).
Titans – Albert Haynesworth (8.5).
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?
Colts – The Colts, after a 3-4 start, have won eight consecutive games to clinch their seventh consecutive playoff appearance and the No. 5 seed in the AFC. It's tied for the third-longest winning streak for the Colts under Head Coach Tony Dungy behind a 13-game winning streak in 2005 and a nine-game streak in 2006. The Colts also won eight consecutive games in 2004.
Titans – After starting the season 10-0, at which point they were the NFL's last remaining unbeaten team, Tennessee won two of its next four games, clinching its first AFC South title since 2002 in the process. This past Sunday, the Titans clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC postseason with a 31-14 victory over Pittsburgh.
QUOTES TO NOTE
"I think it says a lot for our division that there are only three teams that have clinched spots, and we have two of them. Tennessee has done an outstanding job. They won the division title. We were hoping this game would mean a lot more for us, but it doesn't. That's the way it goes and I think you have to give them a lot of credit. They deserve to be where they are. . . . A game here or a game there can be the difference."
--- Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy
"It's a great feeling that you set out at the beginning of the year to accomplish several goals and to know that step one (securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs) is accomplished. It's definitely a satisfying feeling, but also, it's not a fulfilling feeling just because we have a couple of more steps to take."
--- Titans Linebacker Keith Bulluck
The Titans, a year after making the playoffs on the last weekend of the regular season, led the AFC South this season from start to finish, clinching their first division title since 2002 earlier this month. On Sunday, they secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a victory over Pittsburgh, which will enter the playoffs seeded second.
The Colts, like the Titans, cannot move up or down in the AFC seedings, so Sunday's game at Lucas Oil Stadium will mean nothing to either team in terms of playoff implications.
The Titans beat the Colts, 31-21, in Nashville, Tenn., earlier this season, part of a 10-0 start that helped them all-but secure the AFC South entering the second half of the season.
Tennessee, which has steadily improved this season, has won with a style similar to that it has used in past successful seasons – a run-oriented, efficient offense, and a physical defense that excels at creating turnovers.
The Titans have a plus-14 turnover margin, which is tied with Miami for the best in the NFL, and although they rank just 18th in the NFL offensively, running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White have combined to rush for 24 touchdowns in 15 games.
Defensively, the Titans have one of the NFL's best, deepest lines, and despite the absence of 2008 Pro Bowl tackle Albert Haynesworth and 2007 Pro Bowl end Kyle Vanden Bosch, they harassed Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger five times Sunday.
"We are a hard-working and hungry football team and it's playoff time," Titans wide receiver Justin Gage said. "We have to play our best football at this time of the year. I think we took a step toward that. We played Pittsburgh, which is one of the top teams in the NFL, and we got a victory."
Three key head-to-heads . . .
• Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis versus Titans offensive tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart. The Colts' defensive ends long have been one of the NFL's top pass-rushing duos. This year, they have combined for 22 sacks – Mathis with 11.5 and Freeney with 10.5 – and each was named to the Pro Bowl last week. Roos has started every game in four NFL seasons and was recently named to his first Pro Bowl. The Titans have allowed a league-low nine sacks this season and are the NFL's sixth-ranked rushing offense. They also have rushed for 24 touchdowns.
• Colts middle linebacker Buster Davis versus Titans running back Chris Johnson. Not a true one-on-one matchup and as is the case throughout the rosters of both teams, it is unknown how long Johnson – the Titans' starter – will play. Still, how the Colts defend the Titans running game will be key. The Colts limited the Titans, who are sixth in the NFL in rushing, to 88 yards on 31 carries in their first meeting, and that success was one reason the teams were tied at the end of three quarters. Tennessee rushed for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a 31-21 victory. The Colts, after struggling against the run in the first month of the season, have allowed just one 100-yard rusher in their last nine games.
• Colts quarterback Jim Sorgi versus Titans quarterback Vince Young. Again, not a true one-on-one matchup, but the play of the two backup quarterbacks could be a major storyline Sunday. Sorgi has yet to throw a pass this season, but Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said early this week the fifth-year veteran likely will play extensively against Tennessee. It will be his first extended regular-season action since a 16-10 Indianapolis loss to the Titans in last year's regular-season finale. Young, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, started the season opener and has played in one game since. With the Titans having clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Dungy said the Colts this week planned to prepare for Young to play extensively.
TITANS IN REVIEW
The Titans were the NFL's most-consistent, steady team in the early season and this past week, they clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
The Titans have allowed more than 17 points in just two games this season – a 31-21 victory over the Colts and a 34-13 loss to the New York Jets.
In the regular-season opener, the Titans won a big, AFC South game at home against Jacksonville, taking sole possession of first place in the division, a lead they held all season. They then won their next three games – 24-7 over Cincinnati, 31-12 over Houston and 30-17 over Minnesota – by double digits before edging the Ravens, 13-10, in Baltimore.
They won their next five games – a streak that included a 31-21 victory over Indianapolis and an overtime victory over Green Bay – to improve to 10-0 and all-but clinch the AFC South title. They then lost two of their next four games – 34-13 at home to the New York Jets and 13-12 at Houston – before clinching home-field advantage with a 31-14 victory over Pittsburgh Sunday.
When the Titans have been among the NFL's elite teams in recent seasons, it typically has been largely because of a strong defense. This season is no exception. The Titans feature a roster of quality defensive players – defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, linebacker Keith Bulluck, cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safety Chris Hope among them – and they could finish in the top five in the NFL in total defense for a second consecutive season. That would be the first time they have done so since the 1970 NFL Merger. The Titans' streak of nine consecutive games allowing 17 or fewer points over the course of 2007 and 2008 was the second longest in NFL history.
The Titans franchise and the Colts have played 27 times in the regular season, with the Colts leading the series, 15-12. That record includes an 8-5 Indianapolis advantage since the two teams became members of the AFC South in 2002. The Titans swept the Colts that season en route to winning the first AFC South title, and the Colts swept the Titans the next three seasons – 2003, 2004 and 2005 – en route to three consecutive division titles. The teams split the season series in 2006 and again last season, with the Colts winning, 22-20, in Nashville in September, and the Titans winning, 16-10, in the season finale. Tennessee clinched a playoff spot with the second victory, a game in which many Colts starters did not play in the second half. Tennessee beat the Colts in Nashville, 31-21, earlier this season. The Colts won the teams' first meeting, 24-20, in 1970, and they have met once in the playoffs. That was a 19-16 Titans victory in the RCA Dome in an AFC Divisional Playoff game following the 1999 season.
The Titans (7-0), at the time the NFL's last remaining unbeaten team, rallied from deficits of 7-3 and 14-6 with a solid, efficient final 21 minutes, scoring 25 consecutive points en route to a 31-21 victory over Indianapolis (3-4) in front of 69,143 at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday, October 27. The Colts, after taking a 14-6 lead early in the third quarter, allowed four consecutive second-half scoring drives – including three in the fourth quarter – and failed to convert critical fourth downs on back-to-back second-half drives. The Titans turned the fourth-down stops into 10 points and a 24-14 lead, and after safety Chris Hope's second interception of the game with just under four minutes remaining, rookie running back Chris Johnson's 16-yard touchdown run gave the Titans a 31-14 lead. With the victory, the Titans took a four-game lead over the Colts, Jacksonville (3-4) and Houston (3-4).