The Titans and Colts faced off Sunday for a chance to take first place in the AFC South. The Titans walked away with a dominating win. Here’s how it all happened…
The Colts won the toss and kicked off to Tennessee. Just like they did on their opening drive against Indianapolis two weeks ago, the Titans marched right down the field. Derrick Henry got going right away, and Ryan Tannehill was also sharp early, hitting passes to Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, and Geoff Swaim on the possession. Finally, Tannehill hit Henry in the flat — on a designed, backwards quick hitter — and Henry took it 12 yards for the score.
Philip Rivers and the Colts answered right back. Nyheim Hines picked up where he left off last game, accounting for Indy’s first 21 yards. The Titans defense forced a fourth-and-one from the IND 48, but Frank Reich rolled with dice with a Jacoby Brissett bootleg to pick up the yardage. A huge play out of the backfield to Jordan Wilkins set up Rivers in scoring position. He hit Trey Burton against tight coverage by Kevin Byard in the end zone on third and seven a few plays later to knot things up.
On the Titans ensuing drive, they had to work hard for one first down. Then Big Play Brown struck again, with Tannehill hitting Brown over the middle on a short throw. Brown did the rest, taking it all the way to the house for yet another long touchdown, this one 69 yards. He becomes the fifth active player with eight or more receiving touchdowns in each of his first two seasons.
End 1Q — Titans 14, Colts 7.
Burton and Hines continued to dominate for the Colts offense. In a flash, Indianapolis was across midfield, with a 19-yard play to Burton followed by a 19-yard screen to Hines. A defensive pass interference committed in the end zone by Byard brought out Brissett again, and the backup mobile quarterback scored on a read-option keeper to even the score again.
Henry continued to churn out yards, running for a 10 yards to open the next drive. The Titans offense would stall from there. After a booming punt by Brett Kern in his first action since injury. Tennessee’s defense responded with their first stop of the afternoon, forcing a three-and-out. Colts punted right back.
Continuing to pound the ball, the Titans hit the Colts with their usual mix of Henry runs and play-action passes. Davis drew a pass interference against Rock Ya-Sin shortly before a 21-yard catch set the Titans up inside the five. On third and goal, the Colts got to Tannehill for the sack, but another penalty on Ya-Sin in coverage against Davis made it first and goal at the one. Henry took it in for the score on the next play.
On the Colts’ next drive, Tennessee’s defense forced another punt. Hines picked up another 10 yards on the first play, but the Colts sputtered from there, with Harold Landry making a nice play in coverage on Michael Pittman Jr. Colts punted back to Tennessee with 4:25 to go in the first half.
Who else but Henry? The big back ripped off a 31-yard run to start the drive, and followed it up with an eight-yard run. D’Onta Foreman came in to spell Henry for a bit and moved the ball closer. Finally, Henry broke through for his third score on a weaving run through the defense.
Feeding off the energy of their offense, the Titans defense started to wake up, smothering the Colts on their next possession. A holding penalty pushed the ball back, and Breon Borders dropped a sure interception before David Long laid the wood on Colts receiver DeMichael Harris.
The Titans got the ball back again with 1:13 in the half, and more penalties by Indianapolis gave them excellent field position. Arthur Smith went uber-conservative with a pair of Jeremy McNichols runs on first and second down, and then the Titans had to go for it on fourth-and-four from the IND 38. Tannehill threw a low pass deep to Davis, who went low to haul in the grab and advance the ball to the one. Tannehill was in on a read-option run on the next play.
End 1H — Titans 35, Colts 14.
Indianapolis started the second half with the ball, but again, the Titans defense stiffened up after a quick first down. Amani Hooker made a nice pass breakup on third down, and the Colts punted. But the Titans offense was in a similar spot, picking up one first down before bringing Kern back out for his second punt.
Rivers continued to struggle, failing to find completions. A short penalty on third and 10 gave the Colts a free first down, but three plays later, Jeffery Simmons got to Rivers for a sack. The Colts punted back to Tennessee about halfway through the third quarter.
And yet again the Titans went four-and-out after a 14-yard run by Henry opened the drive. Kern came out for a short punt from the IND 45, pinning the Colts at their own 13.
The Titans defense continued their stranglehold on the Colts. Rivers hit T.Y. Hilton, but then missed three straight passes, the third of which ended up in the hands of Borders, who wasn’t about to let another turnover chance slip through his fingers.
Titans took over at their own 37 and moved meticulously down the field, eventually stalling out at the Colts 26-yard line. Stephen Gostkowski came out for his first field goal try, and the kick sailed wide. But a false start on the Titans gave Gostkowski a mulligan attempt, and he knocked through the slightly longer kick with ease.
End 3Q — Titans 38, Colts 14.
The Colts responded with a nice drive, but it may have been too little too late. Hilton got past Borders on a deep shot for the Colts’ longest play yet, down inside the five. Brissett came on a few plays later and scored his second rushing touchdown of the day.
Tennessee put together a lengthy clock-killing drive that lasted nine plays but only went for 29 yards, eating over seven minutes of possession time before punting back to Indianapolis.
With 5:55 left in the game, Rivers led another Indianapolis touchdown drive that covered 94 yards over 11 plays in just 3:21 in what was essentially garbage time. The offense was helped by a few penalties on their way to scoring, and Rivers hit Hilton for the five-yard score.
Indianapolis tried an onside kick for a last ditch desperation effort, still down by two scores, and the result was unbelievable. A.J. Brown came out as part of the hands team, and he fielded the high, short kick with no Colts around him and sprinted 42 yards for his second touchdown, pushing the Titans lead back up.
The Colts would have one more possession, but it was Brissett who came out to take the final snaps with just over two minutes remaining. Nothing eventful happened, and the Colts punted for Logan Woodside to kneel out the game.
Final: Titans 45, Colts 26.
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