A second half meltdown by the Titans special teams led to 21 unanswered points for the Colts and an embarrassing home loss for Tennessee. Now tied at 6-3 atop the AFC South — with the Colts holding the head to head tiebreaker — Mike Vrabel’s team has some critical questions facing them as they head into a mini-bye before back-to-back road trips to Baltimore and Indianapolis.
For now, let’s look at the winners and losers from Colts 34, Titans 17.
Winner: Derrick Henry
Let’s get this out of the way first… Derrick Henry played well. He ran tough and finished with 103 yards on 19 carries and likely would have had more if not for the implosion by the special teams unit after halftime.
Loser: Trevor Daniel
The decision to go with Daniel as the punter after Ryan Allen’s excellent performance against the Bears on Sunday was a curious one to say the least. Reports from our own Justin Melo indicated that the decision was based on Daniel’s performance in practice during the week.
Obviously, the move proved to be disastrous as Daniel’s 17-yard shank deep in Titans territory began the second half avalanche that doomed Tennessee tonight. It came after a long 15-play Colts drive had exhausted the defense and coming back out to defend a short field after just five plays off was the last thing that unit needed.
I’m not sure that the blocked punt can be fairly blamed on Daniel. Maybe he could have been a bit quicker to get it off, but when you leave a man completely unblocked, there isn’t a ton the punter can do usually.
Needless to say, I’d imagine this will be the only career appearance for Daniel as a Titan.
Loser: Stephen Gostkowski
Another week, another miss for Gostkowski. It was his 8th miss of the 2020 season and at this point, it’s kind of crazy to just keep hoping that the 36-year old is suddenly going to figure it out. I’m not sure Giorgio Tavecchio will be better, but I’m pretty certain he won’t be worse at this point.
Loser: David Long
This appears to be the culprit for the blocked punt. Long looked to double the rusher to the inside of the Colt who blocked the punt, leaving his man completely untouched as he flew towards Daniel. Bad mistake by the young linebacker and it really put his team in a tough spot in this one.
Loser: Jonnu Smith
After opening the season red hot, Smith has cooled considerably in recent weeks. It’s not all his fault — he’s been asked to chip frequently to help the Titans tackles against premier edge rushers — but tonight he simply looked a little lackadaisical on a few routes. Smith finished with just 2 catches for 14 yards on 6 targets in this game.
Loser: Jamil Douglas
Douglas played a series at center for Ben Jones, who briefly exited with an apparent injury before coming back and finishing the game, and he also appeared at left guard after Rodger Saffold left the game with an ankle injury. He appeared to hold his own in the run game — much like he did against Chicago on Sunday — but struggled in pass protection. We will see if Saffold can get healthy in the next 10 days before Baltimore.
Loser: Ty Sambrailo
Sambrailo is playing okay in general, but he’s still getting beat pretty badly once or twice a game in pass pro. Tonight, he got whipped cleanly by Justin Houston, who absolutely smoked Ryan Tannehill after a pass. Sambrailo next to Douglas is a recipe for disaster on passing plays.
Loser: A.J. Brown
The Titans needed more from A.J. Brown tonight. He finished with just one catch for 21 yards on the night despite getting four targets. He also dropped a sure touchdown that would have put the Titans up 14-0 early. Brown is a stud, but this performance wasn’t his best.
Loser: Titans Defense
Let me say this for the Titans offense… they didn’t play perfect, but they were pretty much rolling until they went 28 plays (nearly an hour by the clock) without touching the football. After that long break, they took over backed up on their own goal line and never managed to get back in a rhythm after that.
The defense had its moments — two big 4th down stops — but for the most part fell back into the habits that they’d had prior to last week. Too many easy throws underneath, no pressure on the quarterback, and just a general lack of playmaking. The Colts piled up 430 yards of total offense on just 8 total drives, averaging over 53 yards per drive. I guess the good news is that the Titans only allowed four 3rd down conversions in 12 tries?
This was not a good Colts offense that the Titans faced, but they simply don’t have answers on that side of the ball right now outside of hoping Nick Foles is the opposing quarterback.