Colts 34, Titans 17: Five observations as special teams, defensive failings cost Tennessee
The Titans will play the Colts again in two weeks. Maybe then they’ll be able to do something to stop – or even slow down – the Indianapolis offense. Maybe then they'll succeed in not embarrassing themselves on special teams.
On “Thursday Night Football,” they failed in both of those regards.
Here are five observations as the Titans fell 34-17 to the Colts at Nissan Stadium and surrendered their hold on the AFC South lead:
Recently signed Trevor Daniel on Thursday became the Titans’ third punter in as many games. A wrist injury to Pro Bowler Brett Kern prompted the Titans to turn first to Ryan Allen last week and then Daniel for the Colts game.
The move blew up in their faces in the third quarter. After linebacker Rashaan Evans had a huge tackle on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to force a turnover on downs, the Titans offense couldn’t get anything going, which forced the punt unit onto the field.
Daniel came through with an absolute dud of a punt – it went only 17 yards – to set the Colts up at the Titans 27-yard line. Four plays later, Indy found the end zone.
Then, after the Titans’ next possession went nowhere, Daniel came back on the field and had his punt blocked and returned for a Colts touchdown that put Indy up 27-17.
… that was not confined to the punt unit.
Enter Stephen Gostkowski, who already was leading the league in missed field goals heading into Thursday. Then he missed another – a 44-yarder that would have brought the Titans to within 27-20 early in the fourth quarter but instead only added to the special teams nightmare.
Gostkowski is now 12-for-20 on field goals this season. His eight misses are an NFL high.
Colts offense has its way
For the duration of the night, the Titans defense showed little to no resistance against quarterback Philip Rivers, running back Nyheim Hines and the rest of the Colts offense.
Four of their seven drives spanned more than 10 plays. The other three all resulted in touchdowns. Indy piled up 430 total yards to the Titans’ 294.
Indianapolis' first punt came with 3:01 left in the game.
Rivers was 29-for-39 passing for 308 yards and a touchdown. Hines had 115 total yards and two touchdowns.
The normally sure-handed A.J. Brown had a drop that probably cost the Titans a touchdown in the first quarter.
Ryan Tannehill threw a perfect ball down the left sideline, and Brown had a step of separation on his defender. But the second-year wide receiver, who has six touchdown grabs this season, couldn’t corral the ball. He had only daylight in from of him.
Afterward, Fox cameras caught Brown slamming the bench on the sideline in frustration.
Brown had only one catch for 21 yards. Tannehill finished 15-of-27 passing for 147 yards and a touchdown pass to D'Onta Foreman on the opening drive. Derrick Henry ran 19 times for 103 yards.
The Fox cameras also caught Corey Davis during an emotional moment, but for a much different reason.
Davis’ older brother, Titus, died Wednesday from renal medullary carcinoma, a rare form of kidney cancer. He was 27 years old. It left the younger Davis in an impossibly difficult situation as he mourned the loss of his brother while looking to continue what’s been a solid season for the fourth-year wide receiver.
He did just that. While the Titans offense was only OK against the Colts' top-ranked defense, Davis was solid with five catches for 63 yards.
Davis was shown on the Fox broadcast with tears streaming down his face before the start of the game.
Reach Erik Bacharach at [email protected] and on Twitter @ErikBacharach.