NASHVILLE – When the NFL schedule was released, Sunday’s game between the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts at Nissan Stadium figured to be the effective start of race for the AFC South title between the two favorites.
After each team opened the season with two games against NFC West opponents, however, it is now an opportunity for the Titans (1-1) to put the Colts (0-2) in a significant early hole.
With a win, Tennessee can take sole possession of first place in the division, establish a two-game lead on Indianapolis with an early head-to-head advantage. And the opportunity comes after a week in which Colts quarterback Carson Wentz got little practice time due to a pair of sprained ankles.
If the Colts come out on top, though, things will get interesting. At least three of the division’s four teams will be 1-2 – and the race will be on.
On to kickoff.
The Colts won the coin toss and deferred their option to the second. Tennessee will get the ball first.
Jeremy McNichols is the Titans’ return man in place of Chester Rogers. (Special teams coordinator Craig Aukerman said this week that the coaches wanted more on kickoff returns). The kick sails out of the end zone for a touchback.
(14:11) A three-and-out as no one accounts for blitzing linebacker Bobby Okereke, who sacks Ryan Tannehill for a loss of nine yards on third-and-9. The only “successful” play on the possession was a 1-yard run by Derrick Henry on second-and-10.
Tannehill has now been sacked 10 times in two games plus one drive. It took until the eighth game of 2020 before he was sacked for the 10th time.
(12:21) The Colts go three-and-out on their first possession. Their only “successful” play was a 2-yard run by Jonathan Taylor on second down.
(10:46) On third-and-3 Tannehill gets pressured again. This time he escapes the pocked for a 17-yard gain, and Tennessee is across midfield to the Indianapolis 47. That is three straight games in which Tannehill has had a run of more than 15 yards.
(8:40) The Titans go for it on fourth-and-4 from the Indianapolis 41. Tannehill’s pass is complete to Julio Jones for a 15-yard gain.
(6:38) Tannehill hooks up with Chester Rogers on third-and-goal from the 6 for the touchdown. Henry ran for 19 yards on the play immediately following the fourth-down conversion to get the offense in position to score. Scoring drive: 11 plays, 71 yards, 5:41. TENNESSEE 7, INDIANAPOLIS 0
Rogers caught five touchdown passes in four years (53 games) with the Colts. That is his first for Tennessee.
(4:57) Kristian Fulton breaks up a third-down pass intended for Michael Pittman and forces a punt. The drive got off to a promising start for the Colts with a 23-yard Jonathan Taylor run. But that was about as far as it went.
Fulton has at least one pass defensed in every game this season. That was his team-leading fourth.
(0:21) Tannehill has plenty of time to throw on third-and-7. And he throws it to Indianapolis linebacker Darius Leonard. The Titans nearly get it back when Leonard fumbles on the return but it is Indianapolis’ ball at its own 47.
The big news on that possession was that wide receiver A.J. Brown was not involved and watched without his helmet. The team reports he has a hamstring injury and is questionable to return.
(0:00) End of the first quarter. Tennessee outgained Indianapolis 81-34 in the quarter.
(10:25) The Colts capitalize on the turnover and pull even with a touchdown drive capped by NyHeim Hines’ 9-yard run. They converted two third downs along the way. Scoring drive: 9 plays, 53 yards, 4:52. TENNESSEE 7, INDIANAPOLIS 7
Hines scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, in his last visit to Nissan Stadium (Nov. 12, 2020). He has a chance to do it again today.
(6:01) Tannehill with his second touchdown pass of the day, this one for 18 yards to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. The drive included two completions to Julio Jones for 32 yards. The Titans getting by just fine without Brown for now. Scoring drive: 8 plays, 75 yards, 4:23. TENNESSEE 14, INDIANPOLIS 7
That is Westbrook-Ikhine’s first career touchdown catch. And Tannehill has thrown multiple TD passes for the first time in six games dating back to last season (counting the playoff loss to Baltimore).
(4:14) The Colts punt for the third time in four possessions following another three-and-out. The Titans have a chance to build on their lead. They take over at their own 17 and have all three timeouts.
(1:02) The Titans get to the Indianapolis 26, where it its third-and-9. Rogers can’t pull in the pass, and it turns into Tannehill’s second interception of the day, which Kenny Moore returns 32 yards to the Titans’ 47.
(0:04) Indianspolis uses its final timeout and sends out the field goal unit for a 43-yard try. It’s good. The drive started with a sack by Ola Adeniyi, but an illegal contact penalty on David Long gave Indianapolis a first down on the next snap. Scoring drive: . TENNESSEE 14, INDIANAPOLIS 10
Derrick Henry has 70 rushing yards on 16 carries. Julio Jones leads the Titans with three receptions for 47 yards. David Long has a team-high five tackles.
The Colts get the ball to start the second half.
(6:29) The Colts have to settle for another field goal, this one from 28 yards. They converted a fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 40 and a fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 15 but failed to reach the end zone. They did take a lot of time off the clock, though. Scoring drive: 17 plays, 66 yards, 8:34. TENNESSEE 14, INDIANAPOLIS 13
The Colts ran 21 plays in the first half to the Titans’ 38. It is now 38 plays apiece.
(4:55) A big break for the Titans. After a three-and-out by the offense, the Colts are called for roughing the kicker on Brett Kern (the personal foul variety). The offense stays on the field with a first down at its own 38. The defense stays on the sideline and gets to rest some more.
(2:46) Westbrook-Ikhine fumbles at the end of a 13-yard reception, and Indianapolis recovers at its own 5 and return it to the 18. A 28-yard scramble by Tannehill and a 13-yard completion to Cameron Batson had Tennessee in position to make the Colts pay for the roughing-the-kicker penalty. Instead, it is the Titans’ third turnover of the game.
The Titans now have six turnovers (three lost fumbles, three interceptions) in their first two home games this season. They had five turnovers (three lost fumbles, two interceptions) at home in eight games last season.
(1:15) Mike Vrabel wins his first challenge of the season. An 11-yard reception by Colts wide receiver Parris Campbell is overturned and ruled an incomplete pass. That makes it second-and-10 for Indianapolis at its own 32.
(1:07) Following the replay challenge, Jeffery Simmons batted a pass, and Harold Landry and Ola Adeniyi combined on a sack to make it fourth-and-20 from the 22. The Colts will punt.
Rookie Rashad Weaver, a fourth-round draft pick, is injured and can’t put weight on his right leg as trainers help him off the field.
(0:00) End of the quarter. Tennessee has outgained Indianapolis 284-163 but the turnovers have kept them from building any kind of comfortable advantage.
(13:01) Jeremy McNichols with a 10-yard touchdown reception on third-and-10. A pass interference penalty on a deep throw to Westbrook-Ikhine gave the Titans 30 yards and made it first-and-goal at the 8. Tennessee went for two, and Derrick Henry’s run was successful to make it a two-score game. Scoring drive: 5 plays, 59 yards, 2:24. TENNESSEE 22, INDIANAPOLIS 13
Rashad Weaver has been ruled out for the remainder of the game with an ankle injury.
(10:23) The Colts make it a one-score game again with their third field goal of the day, this one from 24 yards. Indianapolis got a boost from a defensive holding call on Rashaan Evans followed by a short pass to Hines that turned into a 36-yard gain. Scoring drive: 7 plays, 70 yards, 2:36. TENNESSEE 22, INDIANAPOLIS 16
(3:02) The Titans make it a two-score game once again with Randy Bullock’s 32-yard field goal. More importantly, they did take more than seven minutes off the clock and force the Colts to use all of their timeouts. Scoring drive: 14 plays, 67 yards, 7:22. TENNESSEE 25, INDIANAPOLIS 16
(1:02) The Colts are out of hope as Rodrigo Blankenship’s 52-yard field goal attempt misses to the right. They can’t stop the clock so Tennessee will kneel on it twice.
Derrick Henry finished with 113 yards on 28 carries. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine was Tennessee’s leading receiver with four catches for 53 yards and a touchdown.
With the win, the Titans improve to 2-1, one game better than Houston (1-2) and two games up on both Indianapolis (0-3) and Jacksonville (0-3).