It was another Tennessee Titans loss to the Indianapolis Colts, 30-27. It was another game where the Titans couldn't afford any mistakes, and they made one. It was another game the Titans couldn't get the defensive stop they needed. In the end, it was probably the nail in the coffin for the hopes the Titans had when they began the 2013 season.
The game started promisingly, as the Titans drove the field with ease their first two possessions and extended that lead to 17-3 late in the first half. Before the Titans offense would take another snap, though, the game would change. The Colts drove for a field goal before halftime. 17-6. A touchdown after halftime. 17-13. New return man Devon Wylie fumbles the ensuing kickoff, giving the Colts a short field before another score. Titans down 20-17. A three-and-out, and it became 23-17.
The Titans cut it to 23-20, but couldn't move the ball on their next possession. One more stop, though, on a Colts drive that began midway through the fourth quarter, and the Titans could drive for the lead. 4:40 later, Donald Brown scored for a 30-27 lead. Like last week, Ryan Fitzpatrick found Delanie Walker for a score to make it more respectable, but the onside kick failed and the Colts took the knee for the win.
A week after pretending they could run, the Titans came out with the right offensive gameplan. They put Ryan Fitzpatrick in spread sets, asked him to get the ball out quickly and told him to take off if nothing was open. He ran it well, repeatedly throughout the game finding Delanie Walker and Kendall Wright on short crossing routes against the Colts inside linebackers in coverage. Run-blocking was great early, as Chris Johnson had 13 carries for 80 yards in the first half. This sort of gameplan generally requires precise execution, and the Titans flagged a bit there in the middle of the game. On the whole, scoring 27 points on 8 possessions, or even 20 on 7 if you discount the late drive against prevent, will win you many games.
If you wanted to, you could almost make a case the defense played acceptably well. Six points in the first half, Trent Richardson finished with 8 rushes for 22 yards, and excluding scrambles Andrew Luck gained 229 yards on 37 dropbacks. After the initial three-and-out, though, every single Colts drive ended inside the Titans 40. Tight end Coby Fleener finished with 107 yards receiving, with Bernard Pollard seemingly the culprit on the biggest plays. Donald Brown confounded the Titans run defense yet again, finishing with 14 carries for 80 yards and seemingly picking up 3 or more extra yards on every carry. On the whole, giving up 30 points on 9 possessions will lose you many games.
A week and and a half, roughly, until the Titans play the Raiders in Oakland. A few days off, and the Titans can figure out which of their goals for the season are still in reach, and what's left to play for if they're not. More on this game and the rest of the 2013 outlook from me later.