You knew things weren’t going to go well for the Colts when Joe Lefeged fumbled the ball away on the very first play of the game. Sure the Colts recovered it, but the “here we go again” feeling was already on display, and so it proved. The Colts, for large spells, didn’t play all that badly in this one and it’s interesting to think how different this game could have turned out but for a blocked punt and two deflected passes that became picks.
But those plays happened and in truth any result other than a Titans win would have been unfair on a team that always looked that bit better than the Colts, who at least played hard this week. The Titans may not have got their running game going, but there were signs of life from it and, with a tricky schedule coming up, that will be the encouraging thing they take from this game.
As for Indianapolis? Well they may have been in a better position to have pulled off a win if not for deciding they were going to try and screen pass the Titans into boredom. It didn’t work and by the time Curtis Painter got to work, there was already too much to do. Let’s look at that and the other key performances that played a role in this one.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
Time to let the Painter loose?
Nine times the Colts ran screen plays, seven of which came in the first half and it sent a clear message. We do not trust our QB and want to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible. It wasn’t just the screen passes but the numerous short slants (another eight of those) that said the Colts were determined not to lose this, which did a disservice to Curtis Painter (+2.2) because once he was finally let off the leash in the second half he made some nice plays. His throw to Austin Collie with 12:13 to go in the third was an indication of what he could do and he’ll consider himself somewhat unfortunate to have walked away with two interceptions. It certainly wasn’t perfect, Painter struggled on his deep ball, particularly when he tried to hit Pierre Garcon on go routes (four attempts, no completions and one interception) and he was guilty of trying to force the ball in. However considering the state of the franchise, Painter should take heart that he isn’t the reason they’re losing games, at least not this one.
The epitome of Ernie Sims
I know some Colts fans who were happy about the pickup of Ernie Sims (-1.7). A former first round pick and tackle machine (well more of a pile on after the tackle machine), he would add some energy to a relatively stale LB group. Are they still thinking that after Sims displayed the good and very bad of his play? He had a nice stop on third down and then broke up a pass play with 3:33 to go in the second before proceeding to go into ‘Ernie Mode’ for a five play stretch with the Titans on the move inside the two minute warning at the end of the first half. First he bit hard on a play fake to allow Jared Cook the freedom of the middle field, he then twice managed to miss tackles on Javon Ringer that resulted in first downs. If anything summed up his career, it was that collection of plays.
Brayton’s big day
If we’re talking about a Colts defensive end the odds are we’re mentioning Dwight Freeney (+1.8). While Freeney delivered some of his impact plays (of the two hits he picked up on Michael Roos, the bull rush with 40 seconds left in the first quarter was devastating), this week was the turn of Tyler Brayton (+3.1). The former Raiders and Panthers DE was a force in the run game and none more so than one when he decimated Eugene Amano on a draw play with 6:58 to go in the first half to pick up a big tackle for a loss, getting his defense off the field. He had a fair bit of joy against Daniel Graham as well and can be very happy with his days work. A semi-interesting note regarding Brayton is that the Colts lined up as a DT on 10 of his 32 plays, while Jamaal Anderson spent 8 of his 32 plays at DT. Could the Colts finally be realizing that the less time any of their interior defensive linemen spend on the field the better they are as a result?
Tennessee – Three Performances of Note
Poor Seth Olsen (-3.5). The Colts RG only lasted 25 snaps before his coaches decided he’d had enough, but they really had no choice once it became clear that he was absolutely no match for Karl Klug (+4.9), who went to work on him, picking up a sack, hit and pressure. His sack at 10:22 in the second was particularly brutal to watch with Klug treating Olsen with utter contempt as he swept pass him. In fairness to Olsen, he wasn’t alone in getting the Klug treatment, with Jamey Richard getting beat instantly by the DT with 3:32 to go in the game as the 5th round pick finished the day with a sack, hit, three pressures and a batted pass. That would normally make you the star DT on your team, but he’ll be sharing those honors with Jurrell Casey (+3.2) with both men trying to work their way into my race for rookie of the year. Casey had four defensive stops, going to work on Quinn Ojinnaka and Mike Tepper and not losing a one on one battle at the point of attack all game.
Too much CJ2K hate?
From the booing to the constant twittering about Chris Johnson (+0.7) being hesitant hitting the hole (when he’s always been a patient runner), there is one thing that is really clear. People do not like CJ2K. Whether it be his demeanor, his holdout or a genuine belief he’s overrated there seems to be a need to see him fail. When he runs the ball and it’s not for four or more yards people blame and boo him, even with an offensive line that has been very hit or miss. Sure Johnson wasn’t great in this one, but he made some smart cuts and picked up some decent yards when given the opportunity, so maybe we don’t pile on him just yet. He’s not at the top of his game and he was outperformed by Javon Ringer (+1.9), but he’s not the dud people are making out.
Credit in coverage
It’s one of the best trios in the league, and the CB grouping of the Titans didn’t disappoint here, with an added bonus of getting a helping hand from their safeties. Both Jason McCourty (+2.9) and Alterraun Verner (+1.6) were thrown at 10 times and between them yielded only 84 yards, while breaking up four passes. The most impressive of which was one of the three from Verner, where the sophomore tracked Garcon down the sideline and was able to dive and deflect the ball into the arms of Michael Griffin (+2.2). The only real negative for Verner was the horrible angle he took that allowed Painter to execute something that resembled a juke on him. Still, this unit matched up with Garcon, Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie and more than held their own.
– Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck only completed four passes than went longer than nine yards in the air all day, and just four passes outside the left hashmarks.
– A weird day for Barrett Ruud. He had an unblocked hit and a batted pass land right to him for an interception. Sometimes lady lucky shines on you.
– The 79 yards on seven attempts from Curtis Painter matched the combined 79 yards Delone Carter and Donald Brown picked up on their 19 attempts. Give that man the ball!
PFF Game Ball
I set the scene for this earlier, but it’s hard to go against the dynamic rookie duo of Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug. One stopped the run, the other rushed the passer, and together they were near unstoppable.