And that is why you shouldn’t write off Peyton Manning or the Indianapolis Colts.
They exposed a Titans defense that wasn’t at its best with ruthless efficiency in the first half, before a rallying Tennessee squad almost pulled off a shocking, come-from-behind victory as the Colts lost their momentum in the second half.
It was by no means perfect, and they’re a long way from being the team we thought they were, but the Colts are for the time being back on track. The Titans? Not so much.
Colts: Three performances of note
He hasn’t always impressed, but Thursday Night Football against the Titans brought the best out of Pierre Garcon (+2.6). You know you’ve had a good night when you’re walking away with two touchdowns, but his best play was turning a 7-yard completion into a 43-yard gain as he shrugged off tacklers and essentially iced the game. He seems to be coming into form right now and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Colts.
While Dwight Freeney (+0.8) had his usual struggles in the run game, it was a good all-around display from Robert Mathis (+4.3). He more than held his own against David Stewart in the run game and was a real force in making life hard for Kerry Collins. In total he got six pressures on the Titans’ QB, so even if it didn’t show up on the stat sheet, we’ll give him credit for constantly beating one of the league’s better tackles.
It’s not often a No. 2 tight end will make this list. But while Jacob Tamme (+1.2) did fine in every phase of the game, rookie tight end (and blocking specialist) Brody Eldridge (-5.0) had a nightmare of a game. He was constantly losing contain and giving up a quarterback pressure. In general the Colts’ offensive line had one of its better days in run blocking, but out on the edge Eldridge continually let the team down in his 20 pass blocks. Fortunately for him, No. 3 tight end Gijon Robinson (-2.9) is nearly as bad so we’d be surprised if he saw a significant reduction in playing time.
Titans: Three performances of note
In truth, there weren’t many Titans defenders who came out of the game with much credit. One of such was the normally excellent Tony Brown (-4.6), who continued his somewhat underwhelming 2010 season after breaking out last year. Our top-ranked pass-rusher from the defensive tackle spot last year got no pressure on 21 attempts, and was moved about in the run game. We just expected more from Brown this year.
But next to him at the RDE spot, the Titans did at least get one very good performance from the defensive line in the shape of Jacob Ford (+4.6). On a day when the Titans struggled to get any pressure, Ford led the team with three quarterback disruptions (the team managed 11) and added three defensive stops in the run game. With Ford you seem to either get very good games or shockers, with very little in between. This was one of those good games.
The biggest dilemma facing the Titans is what to do at the quarterback spot. If Vince Young moves on, then the draft may be their friend, because for all his longevity, Kerry Collins (+0.6) doesn’t even look like a short-term answer at the moment. He may have completed 71.8 percent of his passes, but most of those were dump-offs when the Colts didn’t get any pressure on him. When they did, he completed just four of nine for 31 yards as they struggled to move the ball in the air (most noticeably with how long the final drive of the game took them). His QB rating may be an impressive 113.6, but this game seriously exposed the limitations of Collins against a Colts team without its top cornerbacks.
It’s not saying much, but Javarris James (+0.5) looks like a better option carrying the ball than Donald Brown. … Shock of the day? Jeff Linkenbach (+0.9) looked a better option at left tackle than Charlie Johnson and had a perfect day in pass protection when he replaced the injured starter. … Blair White (-0.3) had a hot-and-cold performance that included breaking up a pass in the end zone, being the most targeted Colts receiver and catching seven balls. … Linebackers Pat Angerer (-0.5) and Kavell Conner (-1.4) had mixed days. Conner made one nice tackle for a loss, but his two missed tackles blighted his day. … Cornelius Brown (-1.2) had some struggles when he came into the starting lineup, giving up a touchdown.
Cornerback Alterraun Verner (-2.6) had his toughest day as a pro in giving up all seven of the balls thrown his way. … Marc Mariani (+0.6) had a longest return of 35 yards.
The Colts ran three-receiver sets on 65 of 73 snaps (including penalties). … Chris Johnson got 81.09 percent of his yards after contact.