Week three concluded today for the Tennessee Titans with a 25-16 win against the Indianapolis Colts.
In a game that was littered with turnovers and questionable defensive play, it’s surprising that the Titans found a way lock this game up and walk home with a win.
But timely plays on both sides of the ball saved this team and allowed them to end week three with a respectable 2-1 record.
Per usual, we have winners and losers from the game.
Let’s get into it.
Winner: Derrick Henry
Henry continued dominance that started last week in Seattle.
He finished with 113 yards on 28 carries, but no touchdowns since the Titans’ goal to go situations didn’t really come inside the five. Nevertheless, Henry once again showed why he’s the conductor of this Titans offensive train, and he did so against a stout Colts front seven as well.
I think his best drive came on the Titans’ second-to-last offensive drive of the game, one where the unit needed to eat some clock and put some points on the board to put the Colts in a dicey situation offensively.
Henry had 15 yards rushing and a nice 11 yard catch, one that came from him lining up as a receiver on the boundary, to help sustain that ultra important drive that ended up putting the Colts in a hole.
We’ve said it before, whenever Henry gets going, this team is going to be extremely difficult to beat. He got going today and sent the Colts home with a third straight loss to open the year.
Good game for him.
Winner: David Long Jr.
The Titans’ defense didn’t have the day they would’ve wanted, but it could’ve been a lot worse if not for the play of David Long.
Long got a lot of playing time today due to the absence of Jayon Brown and he made the most of it. He flew around defensively, thumping Colts receivers and making his presence known with authority. It was a performance that spoke volumes about his development in recent years and how it’s set himself up to lock down more playing time in the near and distant future.
He’s honestly played well over the last couple of seasons, he just hasn’t been able to get more consistent playing time. If he can keep this up, he’s going to supplant either Evans or Brown — likely Evans — as a starter at inside linebacker.
Loser: Shane Bowen
The Titans had one mission today defensively.
Limit the Colts’ running game, sit on the short passing attack, and get to third and longs so you can pressure a hobbled Carson Wentz.
At times, the Titans followed the formula and executed it well. But for the most part, Shane Bowen opted to play it safe and allow this Colts’ offense to get into a rhythm. Playing off coverage on short down and distance situations, playing light in the box while getting gashed in the run game, Bowen just didn’t do well in situational football.
In the second half, things got a little better with Bowen blitzing Wentz more and forcing the Colts to sweat a little bit on third down.
But if this defense wants to reach its potential, Bowen has to be better in these specific spots.
Uh oh again: Injuries
Last week was a tough day injury wise for the Titans.
Ben Jones had some trouble with an injury, Rodger Saffold went down twice with a shoulder injury, and Taylor Lewan hurt his knee during pregame warm ups, eventually leading to him being named a late inactive.
This week was no different regarding injuries, but I’d argue it was an even worse day for the Titans than last week.
A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Rashad Weaver, Kristian Fulton, David Quessenberry, and others all went down with injuries today. Brown had a hamstring injury and left in the first half, Fulton fought through an ankle injury he suffered today, Weaver suffered a nasty looking ankle injury that might keep him out for a while, and Quessenberry got poked in the eye but returned to the game.
There’s been no word on Jones’ injury, but it had to be something notable to keep him out of the game during a crucial fourth quarter for the Titans.
As the week goes along, the injury report will be a hot topic for this football team. Keep an eye on it throughout the week as much as possible.
Winner: Kristian Fulton
Fulton has been the Titans’ best corner in 2021.
Sticky coverage and feistiness has been the norm for the second year pro out of LSU, two attributes this secondary hasn’t had consistently in quite some time.
Today against the Colts, those two attributes were on full display once again.
The Colts’ passing game was always going to be a little stagnant because Carson Wentz wasn’t going to be able to move around the pocket. But Fulton made the most of his opportunities and is continuing to give this team a reliable, young corner option in a secondary that’s full of injuries and question marks.
If he can keep this up, and at this point I’m starting to think he will, then the rebuild of this defense is going to go a lot smoother than some people thought.
Unexpected hero: Breon Borders
With Fulton fighting a bit of an ankle injury in the second half, Breon Borders was called upon to play some important snaps.
Two plays he made stood out to me.
He got his fingertips on a pass that would’ve resulted in a touchdown for Zach Pascal and he played some good coverage on an important third and goal situation that eventually led to a Colts field goal.
Those plays saved points and lessened some heart rates for Mike Vrabel and the rest of his squad.
In a game where the scoreboard wasn’t lit up and turnovers were prevalent, two big plays like the ones Borders made stand out big time.
One thing that made the Titans’ so efficient last season was their ability to not turn the football over. So far through three games however, turnovers have been a problem for this unit.
This unit has turned the ball over seven times so far, and most of them have come from Ryan Tannehill, who has six turnovers himself
There has to be an emphasis on keeping the football secure, especially if this offense wants to stop running into the frustrating struggles they’ve ran into this season. That rings true for Tannehill specifically, who hasn’t been able to hold on to the football nearly as well as he did last season.
If turnovers become a problem for this unit, then this team as a whole will lose a lot more football games. Not just because that’s how the luck of the draw goes, but because this teams’ schedule is so difficult, that the tough teams will surely make the Titans pay.
Winner: Nick Westbrook-Ikhine
In a game where the Titans’ receiver depth took a couple of heavy shots due to injury, Westbrook-Ikhine had to take on a larger role and deliver in the passing game.
Westbrook-Ikhine finished with four big time catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. He had a fumble in the red zone as well, but luckily for him it didn’t cost him in the long run.
If Westbrook-Ikhine can be relied on to pick up the slack whenever injuries become a problem at the receiver position, then I think this offense can keep the red alarms off whenever they’re forced to dig into their depth at the position.