3TFO: Titans @ Colts, Week 13
This AFC South rematch finds the 5-6 Tennessee Titans going on the road to take on the 7-4 division leading Indianapolis Colts. These two squads met just two weeks ago on Thursday Night Football as the Titans 17-6 halftime lead thanks to their run game, which disappeared in the second half, helping the Colts score three TDs and a field goal to win 30-27.
The Titans are still in the playoff hunt, but they were the first team to give the win-less Jacksonville Jaguars a victory. The Colts have had issues as well with a most stagnant running game despite trading a first-round pick for Trent Richardson and a very suspect defense. Sandwiched around their win in Tennessee are two embarrassing losses to the NFC West in which they were out-scored 78-19.
Here are three key factors that will determine who wins this AFC South battle.
Titans Defense vs. Coby Fleener
With Reggie Wayne on IR, sophomore WR T.Y. Hilton has been Andrew Luck’s go-to target. In the first game between these two squads though, the Titans solid secondary limited Hilton to five catches on nine targets for just 44 yards. This led to tight end Coby Fleener’s best game as a pro, catching eight of 10 passes for 107 yards, 55 coming after the catch, with no drops and resulting in five first downs.
Most of the damage Fleener did came at the expense of safeties Bernard Pollard (best known for his perennial habit of injuring Patriot players) and Michael Griffin. This pair conceded all four passes thrown in their coverage for 77 yards. It should be noted Griffin won’t be playing in this contest due to a one game suspension for an illegal hit. Solid CB Alterraun Verner also allowed a 17 yard catch to the sophomore tight end. Will this unit be better prepared to handle Luck’s college teammate this time around?
Stopping Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson has continued to disappoint this season, but had one of his best games of the year against this Colts team two weeks ago. Although he only averaged 3.1 yards per attempt, he scored twice to give his team a nice lead with the first TD, a 30-yarder, being his longest run of the year. That lead wouldn’t hold though, and Johnson, after a 70 yard first quarter, would only gain 16 yards for the rest of the game, with only four carries in the second half.
Two Colt defenders culpable in Johnson’s big first quarter were RILB Pat Angerer (losing several one-on-one battles and inexplicably taking himself out of the running lane on the second TD run) and FS LaRon Landry (taking a horrible angle on the first TD run). These two defender’s mistakes were overcome by others, including Mathis and NT Aubrayo Franklin, who combined for four stops. Can this maligned defense hold up early on? Perhaps more importantly, will the Titans give Johnson a chance to make an impact?
Michael Roos vs. Robert Mathis
Two weeks ago Titans LT Michael Roos looked like he might lose this matchup, conceding two hurries to Colts OLB Robert Mathis on bulrushes early. However, despite the Colts mounting a furious comeback, Mathis was held in check by Roos, who’s only other hurry came against RT David Stewart. Mathis did get an unblocked QB hit (you could argue that Roos should have picked up Mathis on this play), but it was nullified by a roughing-the-passer penalty.
Mathis’ +0.1 pass-rushing performance in this game tied his lowest grade in this area on the year (he received the same grade against San Diego). Despite these two games where he failed to make a significant impact, Mathis still holds the third-highest pass-rushing grade among his 3-4 peers. Can he take advantage of Roos more this time at home?
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