NASHVILLE – Mike Vrabel did not have to think too long about what the Tennessee Titans need to do better against the Indianapolis Colts this time. It probably helped that he did not have to think back too far.
It was fewer than two weeks that the Titans lost 34-17 to the Colts at Nissan Stadium, gave up sole possession of first place in the AFC South and ceded an important tiebreaker advantage.
“Got to get more stops,” Vrabel said Monday. “Limit long drives. Get off the field. Try to be able to run the ball. Try to be able to establish the line of scrimmage. Be better on special teams. Play more complementary. Try to find ways to turn the football over and making sure that we’re taking care of it.”
Other than that, it should be business as usual for his team.
Here is what you need to know about the Titans as they enter Week 12 of the 2020 NFL season.
The Titans (7-3) know the challenge they face with the Colts. They remember well what happened on Nov. 12, when Indianapolis scored the final 24 points, including all 21 in the second half, and left and established itself as the team to beat in the division.
The Colts (7-3) have won four of their last five games, including the last two against teams with winning records (Tennessee and Green Bay).
They are third in the NFL with an average of 89.2 rushing yards per game allowed and third with 12 interceptions, which means their defense forces opponents to throw the ball and then takes it away. That defense limited Tennessee’s offense to 138 yards on 35 plays (3.9 per play) and – of course – no points over the final two quarters of that last meeting.
The winner will have sole possession of first place in the AFC South and a clear path to the division title over the final five weeks of the season.
Tennessee has gone longer without a first-place finish than any of the other three teams. You have to go back to 2008 to find the last time it topped the standings. Indianapolis last finished first in 2014.
The payoff for this victory is not quite as high as Week 17 of 2018, when the Titans and Colts played a winner-take-all contest for the final AFC wild card spot (the Colts won 33-17) but it feels like this one is just about as important.
THE PLAYOFF CHASE
There are currently seven AFC teams that are either 7-3 or 6-4 with Pittsburgh (10-0) and Kansas City (9-1) clear of the pack. The Titans occupy the top wild card spot ahead of Cleveland (7-3) and Las Vegas (6-4).
However, outside of Tennessee and Indianapolis, nearly all of the other teams in the thick of the race will be heavy favorites this week. The Browns go to Jacksonville (1-9) while the Raiders travel to Atlanta (3-7). Buffalo (7-3), which leads the AFC East, is at home against the Chargers (3-7). Miami (6-4) plays the hapless New York Jets (0-10).
That only adds to the importance of this one for the Titans and Colts, one of which is going to lose – and likely lose ground in the playoff race.
• Both clubs come into this contest buoyed by big comebacks in Week 11. Indianapolis overcame a 14-point deficit and defeated Green Bay 34-31 in overtime. Tennessee came back from 11 down to top Baltimore.
At least one NFL team has overcome a deficit of 13 points or more to win in each of the seasons’ first 10 weeks. That had never happened.
• Indianapolis safety Julian Blackmon, a third-round pick, has begun to generate attention as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Sunday, he had a career-high five tackles and forced a fumble in overtime that led to the game-winning field goal. In the first game against Tennessee, he made four tackles, including a tackle for loss (minus-4 yards) against Derrick Henry that set a tone early in that contest.
• Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had an 83.4 passer rating in the first meeting against the Colts. That was his lowest in a home game since he became Tennessee’s starter.