Titans fall to Colts yet again and miss playoffs
The Tennessee Titans playoff hopes officially died Sunday night at the hands of old nemesis Andrew Luck.
But the truth of the matter is, the Titans were on life support well before kickoff, as starting quarterback Marcus Mariota was unable to play, leaving a short-handed offense trying to keep up with the Colts in what turned out to be a 33-17 loss that sent Indianapolis to the postseason against Houston and the Titans home for the off-season to ponder what changes need to be made going forward. The Titans finished 9-7 for the third consecutive season but out of the playoffs for the second time in those three years.
“This is heartbreaking. This is what you play for is the postseason. We’ve been in the postseason since Dec. 2, and it’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t keep it going,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said.
Statistically, the Titans were dominated more in the stats than they were on the scoreboard. The Colts put up more than 40 minutes in time of possession. Tennessee was just 1 of 9 on third-down conversions and had only 258 yards of total offense, compared to 436 for the Colts.
Word leaked out Sunday morning that Mariota would not play, but linebacker Wesley Woodyard said the players knew early on that they might be without their starting QB for the big game.
“We knew early in the week that he might not be able to go,” Woodyard said. “The mentality was next man up We’ve got to play better as a team and give our team a chance to win with complementary football. But we didn’t do that tonight.”
In the process the Titans remain 0-for against Luck, losing to him for the 11th time in as many meetings.
The Titans trailed almost from the outset as the Colts built a 14-0 lead, thanks to back-to-back 90-plus yard drives that not only gave Indy a two-score edge,but also chewed up a good portion of the first half clock.
Luck took the Colts 92 yards in 12 plays on Indy’s first offensive series, hitting Dontrell Inman from 11 yards out for the lead. On the Colts’ next drive, Luck marched his team 90 yards in 16 plays, gnawing nearly 10 minutes off the clock in the process. A 9-yard pass to Eric Ebron capped the drive.
“Our team got the fast start we wanted. Came out on fire in all three phases, and then had some turnovers, nad some miscues, penalty, but we overcame those as a team,” Colts coach Frank Reich said.
While the Colts offense was busy putting up early points, the Titans finally got themselves back into the game in the second quarter on defensive play. Linebacker Jayon Brown intercepted a Luck pass and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown that cut the Colts lead in half to 14-7.
The teams then traded field goals before halftime as Indianapolis clung to a 17-10 lead at the break.
The Colts took the ball to open the second half and extended their lead to two touchdowns, with Luck throwing his third TD pass of the game, a 1-yarder to tight end Ryan Hewitt to push the Colts’ lead to 24-10.
Tennessee managed to battle back to make it a one score game again. The Titans finally got running back Derrick Henry going, and he rattled off a 33-yard run that put the ball at the Colts 22-yard line. On the next play, off play action Blaine Gabbert found Luke Stocker who went 22 yards for the score that trimmed the lead to 24-17.
After holding the Colts on the ensuing series, the Titans began to drive at the start of the fourth quarter. However, Gabbert’s pass on a third-and-2 at his own 46 was picked off by the Colts’ Kenny Moore. Luck turned that into a field goal, and the Titans never threatened again as the Colts put the game and the Titans’ season away.
“It’s a disappointing season. I don’t care if we won nine games or not, we’re still not where we want to be and did not accomplish what we wanted to accomplish. So that’s a disappointing season,” Titans safety Kevin Byard said.