INDIANAPOLIS – It’s the other biggest game of the Colts 2020 season.
With how the AFC South has evolved over first 11 weeks of the 2020 campaign, the two Colts/Titans matchups this season carry massive meaning to each team’s playoff/divisional hopes.
When the Colts beat the Titans, 34-17, in their Thursday night matchup back on November 12th, the win for Indianapolis improved their chances of winning the AFC South to 50 percent. If the Colts would have lost, those odds would have decreased to 10 percent.
Just 17 days later, the Colts (7-3) and Titans (7-3) will face off again, with this matchup coming at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Let’s take a look back on that first Colts/Titans meetings and see what we learned:
–Fast Tempo Worked: Playing on a short week, Frank Reich and Philip Rivers decided it was best for the Colts to use an up-tempo offensive approach for a huge chunk of the first meeting with Tennessee. It worked brilliantly. Rivers went 29-of-39 for 308 yards, leading an astonishing 7 straight drives to start the game all of which got to at least the Tennessee 30-yard line, with 4 of those drives reaching inside the 10-yard line. The Colts consistently moved the ball all night long. It helped Philip Rivers have the quickest time to throw of any NFL quarterback that week (2.31 seconds in Week 10). On the season, Rivers is averaging 2.49 seconds time to throw (4th fastest in the NFL). Will a normal week of prep time change the Colts thinking in what worked last time?
–Best 20 Minutes Of Season: Do not let the final score fool you too much, the Colts were trailing 17-13 against the Titans with 3 minutes to go in the third quarter. They were an A.J. Brown drop away from being down 14-0, too. But everything changed on a disciplined 3rd-and-1 sack by Denico Autry in the third quarter. On the next play after the Autry sack, the Titans shanked a punt 17 yards. The Colts cashed in on that field position with a TD, then forced a three-and-out, and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown had the Colts leading 27-17 with 1:57 left in the third quarter. The Colts closed out the game with their best 20 minutes of the season, as every facet contributed. While the Colts had some missed opportunities early in this first meeting, it should be noted that their 17-point victory wasn’t some three-score lead for the majority of the game.
-Henry Gets His: For just the second time in the Matt Eberflus’ era, the Colts allowed a 100-yard rushing performance. Both times it’s been Derrick Henry, with the massive back rushing 19 times for 105 yards against the Colts. Henry has rushed for at least 100 yards in 5 of his 10 games this season, with the 5.4 yards per carry being his 3rd highest number of the year. Anytime you play the Titans, this is a huge storyline and it will be once again as Tennessee looks to stay in phase longer into the game. Henry had just 1 carry in the final 14 minutes of this first matchup.
-Breakout Skill Guys: We saw a very aggressive Frank Reich in the first matchup (the Colts went for 4th down a franchise-record 5 times) and a very concerted effort to get two skill guys the ball. Nyheim Hines had a season-high 17 touches for 115 yards (12 carries for 70 yards, 1 touchdown; 5 catches for 45 yards, 1 touchdown). Rookie Michael Pittman caught 7 balls (8 targets) for 101 yards and added a reverse for 21 yards. These guys might not be atop the depth charts at their respective positions, but they played monumental roles in the Colts scoring 34 points.
-Personnel Changes: The Colts did not have Jack Doyle for this first meeting, but will have him on Sunday. Do-it-all cornerback Kenny Moore (ribs) left the first meeting about halfway through and did not return. He is back. Unlike back on November 12th, the Colts will have speedy edge rusher Kemoko Turay this time around. The Titans did not have slot wideout Adam Humphries or cornerback Adoree Jackson in Week 10. Their status remains up in the air. The Titans will be without DL-Jadeveon Clowney, who went on IR last week. Veteran safety Kenny Vaccaro is also iffy having missed the Ravens game this past Sunday due to a concussion. Top linebacker Jayon Brown and new starting LT-Ty Sambrailo both went on IR this week. Simply, the Titans are in a far worse health situation than the Colts.