Somebody check on Jim Irsay.
The Titans swept the season series with their division rival Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon in an ugly, hard-fought war of attrition. It was a game of mistakes much more than a game of successes, and Tennessee had the cleaner performance.
With this win, the Titans move to 4-2 riding a four-game win streak. They also improve to 2-0 in the AFC South, as the Colts fall to an abysmal 1-3-1. For the second season in a row, Tennessee has managed to torpedo the Colts division record before we even reach Halloween.
With a last-second Jacksonville loss, Tennessee finds itself in complete control of the division with a trip to Houston on the horizon. They’re in good shape in that regard, but there was plenty from their Week 7 performance that was less than perfect.
Let’s dive in to our Week 7 Winners and Losers:
Winner: Andrew Adams
In hindsight, it’s not shocking that the Titans found a safety diamond in the rough considering they’ve added 752 of them this year.
Adams was signed off the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad after Week 2. He first started in place of Amani Hooker in Week 4, and played as a reserve in Week 5. In Week 7, he had his breakout performance.
Adams had the only touchdown for his team all day, scoring on a 76-yard pick-six in the second quarter.
I asked Adams after the game about being in the league for a while and finding a landing spot that works. He attributes his successful fit with the Titans to the culture:
“The fight mentality, the don’t quit… the family, the positive vibes that just circle around the building… I just feel like everybody is so engaged in what, you know, our goal is… I think that really makes the difference.”
Loser: Red Zone Offense
This was a category that was bound to see some regression.
Tennessee came into Week 7 with a league-leading 91% touchdown rate in the red zone, a breakneck rate that no other team in that ranking came close to. a nearly-perfect 10-for-11 fell to 10-for-13 after they failed to get home on either of their red zone trips against the Colts.
In fact, the Titans’ offense didn’t find the endzone at all this week; only the defense did. Only four Tennessee drives ended in points, and all of them were field goals.
Todd Downing’s group looked uncharacteristically out-of-sorts in scoring position. The playcalling was suspect at times, but I would attribute these struggles mostly to the depleted personnel situation they had to work with.
This version of the offensive line combined with a receiver group of Woods, NWI, Hollister, and Kinsey made for a serious lack of firepower. Their shortcomings were only multiplied in the short field.
Until the Titans find some stability on the line and get some weapons back, I’m comfortable saying their red zone success rate will continue to come back down to earth.
Winner: Austin Hooper
Welcome to the party Austin Hooper! You’re over a month late.
Hooper was perceived as a sneaky-good offseason addition to the Titans’ terrible tight end room this summer. By Week 6, he was the subject of trade deadline rumors for all the wrong reasons.
With just 6 receptions for 55 yards in his first five games, Hooper wasn’t contributing at all to a passing game he is absolutely talented enough to be a factor in. In Week 7, he finally showed up.
Leading the Titans in receptions and yards, Hooper had 3 catches for 56 yards against a stout Colts defense. Head Coach Mike Vrabel had this to say about his tight end’s day:
Hooper needs to parlay today’s performance into more good weeks going forward in order for his pricetag to be proven a good investment. With the state of this Tennessee passing game, there is plenty of room for him to step up and lead.
Tennessee’s injury woes continue apace, and I’m growing convinced they may never end.
Let’s start with who wasn’t in the lineup before this game even began. Starters on the inactives list included WR Kyle Philips, LB Zach Cunningham, and G Nate Davis. So much for getting healthy over the bye.
Throughout the course of the game, Tennessee saw three of their most crucial starters go down as well, including their quarterback. The good news is that all three returned to the game, but none of them looked very comfortable out there.
On the day that he broke the franchise record for consecutive QB starts with 49, Ryan Tannehill went down with an ankle injury after being rolled up on by his own lineman. He initially tried to walk it off before taking a seat on the field and then making a trip to the blue medical tent on the sideline. While he only missed one play, you could see his heavily taped ankle was causing him pain. In the locker room after the game, he was walking without a shoe on the injured foot, grimacing with a serious limp. When he came out for his press conference, he was wearing an air-cast walking boot.
Center Ben Jones also went down on Sunday, and in classic Ben Jones fashion, he gutted it out all day long. When I caught up with him in the locker room to ask how he was feeling, all he had to say was “We won”. To briefly break the professionalism 4th wall: it was super metal.
The third star to fall was Jeffrey Simmons, who went down in the second half. After taking a seat on the turf, he too went to the sideline for a bit before returning to play. Upon returning, you could tell between plays that he was in pain. In the locker room, he said he’ll be alright. For the Titans’ sake, I hope so.
Winner: Bud Dupree
If you’ve paid any attention to my work in the past month, you know I’ve been beating this drum for over a month: The Titans desperately need Bud Dupree on defense.
Dupree has been among the most controversial members of this team since signing a massive contract a year and a half ago. His spurts of great play have been overshadowed by his injury issues and enormous price tag. Availability has been seriously limited overall, and it’s led many to understandably sour on Dupree.
The reality is that this is two different discussions. Yes, Dupree has been a financial failure so far. He has not played enough to justify what the team is spending on him. At this point, I’m not sure he can play his way back into the black on that ledger.
But when he is on the field, Dupree makes a tremendous difference. Sunday against the Colts was no exception. A sack and a TFL were topped off with a brilliant pair of QB hits that directly contributed to both of Matt Ryan’s interceptions.
Dupree offers so much off the edge that the Titans need: speed, explosiveness, and the ability to finish on group efforts from the pass rush. With the razor-thin pass rusher depth Tennessee is currently dealing with, Dupree’s presence is key to continued success.
Loser: Pass Protection
It was another standard issue 2022 Titans offensive line kind of day. That is to say, it was bad and trending in the wrong direction.
This is the hardest one to write about because, frankly, I feel like I write this “Loser” every week. What more is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Well, a couple of things.
Nate Davis is desperately missed. He’s probably the best lineman on the roster, and his absence the past two weeks has been felt in a big way. Filling in for him has been Dillon Radunz, and as you might guess, it’s been rough.
Radunz has long been suspected to be a much better fit at guard than tackle, and he’s now had real game experience to demonstrate his skills inside.
At Washington in Week 5, he was just fine. It was rough, but not game-breaking.
In Week 7, it went downhill quickly. In pass protection, he was a disaster. We don’t yet have all the advanced metrics and statistics, but the eye test would tell you it’s going to be bad news when they’re available.
I can’t move on without some more Dennis Daley slander either. Daley continues to be untenable at left tackle, and the combination of Daley and Radunz in the lineup is a disaster recipe.
This Tennessee passing game has a very hard and low ceiling with this level of pass protection. If things don’t improve quickly, returning weapons won’t matter much for Ryan Tannehill.
BONUS Winner: Randy Bullock
I couldn’t write this article without giving Randy his due.
Bullock had a great day kicking the ball, getting his team a much-needed 3 points on four different occasions.
Stepping up in class with each attempt, he was good from 27, 28, 38 and 48 on Sunday.
Four field goals are the most in a single game for Bullock since coming to Nashville in 2021.
Easton Freeze is the Director of Published Content at Broadway Sports Media, covering the Titans and the NFLRead more of his articles here, and listen to him on The Hot Read PodcastGet more Titans coverage from Easton on Twitter @eastonfreeze