ReFo: Titans @ Colts, Week 13
For much of the game it looked like Tennessee was perhaps the better team, as they outgained the Colts 347-264 in total yardage and edged them 33:55-26:05 in time of possession. However, turnovers proved their undoing (as they often do) as the Titans lost that crucial battle 4-1, though Indianapolis did have some luck there, recovering all three of their fumbles. The game was close to the end when, after being held to five field goals, the Colts finally got into the end zone with an outstanding 92-yard touchdown drive.
Despite some lackluster performances in recent weeks, the Colts, at 8-4, remain in the driver’s seat of the AFC South. Meanwhile, the Titans drop to 5-7 with the loss and their wildcard hopes take a big hit. In a bizarre AFC, they still have a chance, though a Week 14 trip to Denver could spell the end of any remaining playoff hopes.
Tennessee – Three Performances of Note
Klugging the Middle
In largely limiting the Colt offense, Tennessee got a pair of monster performances inside from its DT duo of Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug. A force all season and one of the highest-graded players at the position, Casey added six more QB disruptions to his name (two sacks, two hits, two hurries) and generally wreaked havoc as a rusher. The Titans might stunt as frequently as any team in the league, which perfectly suits the quick lineman as both of his sacks came via stunt. On the first (2Q, 1:17), he got past both RT Gosder Cherilus and RG Jeff Linkenbach to take down Andrew Luck as he dove left at the snap to open the line for Derrick Morgan. And on the second, Casey looped around from his spot at DLT to beat a late reacting Hugh Thornton (3Q, 6:05).
Klug (+6.0), who opened things up for his teammate on the aforementioned sack, was equally impactful with six pressures and a batted pass of his own. Late in the second quarter (2:04), he beat Thornton for a pressure to force a QB scramble. His best moment, however, came on the very next play, when he destroyed the LG again to the outside for a sack-forced fumble.
It’s difficult to win, even outgaining the opponent, when your quarterback surrenders four turnovers, as Ryan Fitzpatrick did. Those four came in the form of three interceptions and a fumble and he could have had another, saved only by Darius Butler dropping an errant pass at 2:20 of the second quarter. As for the throws that were caught by Colt defenders, the first two weren’t forces as much as they were misfires. At 0:36 of the second quarter, Fitzpatrick airmailed an open Kendall Wright while at 1:20 of the third, he threw behind Nate Washington with two defenders closing, allowing Cassius Vaughn the opportunity to make a fantastic break on the ball for the pick. The third (4Q, 0:33), which fittingly ended the game, came as the QB failed to read Jerrell Freeman underneath his intended target on a crossing route.
While Casey and Klug plugged the middle, two Titan linebackers also had impressive games on the edge. Akeem Ayers was a handful for Anthony Castonzo, beating the left tackle for two hits and a hurry. All three came via inside moves, with Ayers impressively knocking down the QB at both 13:52 of the first quarter and 0:14 of the second. With a batted pass as well, Ayers’ performance was only marred by two offside penalties and a missed tackle; though it’s evidence of how well he played that he still graded at +1.3.
While Ayers plays primarily as an edge rusher, Zach Brown plays a more standard linebacker role. From that spot, he had his best game of the season as a run defender and on his eight snaps as a blitzer. One of those eight produced a sack when he beat Donald Brown to the outside (2Q, 0:21), and on another he batted a pass. Against the run he produced four stops to round out a outstanding +3.5 graded game.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
On the receiving end of the Titan front seven was the Indianapolis offensive line, which had all five starters grade below -2.0. The group allowed pressure on sixteen of the team’s 40 passing plays, with the five charged with a combined 22 total disruptions. The worst stretch came towards the end of the first half just beyond the two-minute warning, when twice in a span of three plays Titan defenders broke through for sack-fumbles, though fortunately both were recovered. The aforementioned Linkenbach, Thornton, and Castonzo struggled particularly in pass protection, while Cherilus and center Samson Satele – neither strong in that area themselves – were handled a bit too easily at times in the run game. For an example of Satele’s subpar play (we’ve already given samples for the other four) take a look at 5:23 and 2:07 of the fourth quarter. The team came away with the division win, but little due to their performance up front.
Alone in the Backfield
Robert Mathis continued his stellar season in a good, if not as spectacular as we’ve seen, showing. With four QB disruptions in 28 rushes, his Pass Rushing Productivity rating is now at 11.7 for the year, among the better marks in the league. To go along with his hit and two hurries, he picked up a sack at 3:58 of the third quarter, beating Michael Roos around the edge to take down Fitzpatrick and force a fumble. A pair of forced cuts in the run game helped round out his +1.5 performance.
The problem for the Colts is that Mathis has been seemingly the only defender that can rush the passer with any consistency. He’s received little help in that regard from fellow edge rushers Erik Walden and rookie Bjoern Werner, the latter in a more limited, situational role. For his part Walden actually played pretty well against the run and in coverage in this game, but could only muster a single pressure in 34 snaps rushing the passer. Likewise Werner did very little as a rusher as has been the case most of the season.
His final statistics weren’t spectacular, and he received little help from his line for most of the game, but Donald Brown came up big down the stretch. At 8:08 of the fourth, with his team up one and at their own 8-yard line, Brown helped spark a 92-yard touchdown drive that put Indianapolis up eight and killed more than six minutes of clock. He ran six times on the drive, gaining 46 of his 54 total yards, including the score from 4 yards out. A pair of 14-yard gains were his most impressive, as he broke a tackle on both runs (4Q, 6:46 and 4:05) to move the chains. With a lot of attention given to the Colt RB position in recent weeks, Brown’s late game performance showed why the team opted for him over Trent Richardson as the starter.
– Rookie Chance Warmark bounced back from his game last week with a +1.6, largely for his work in pass protection (his best performance there of the season). Although he and fellow guard Andy Levitre will want to have their play at 13:08 of the first quarter back.
– Andrew Luck has had trouble connecting deep this year, with a 37% Accuracy Percentage on those throws, and that continued in this game with the QB failing to complete any of his four passes over 20 yards.
– Luck received very little help from his wide outs, particular Darrius Heyward-Bey (-3.3), who dropped as many balls as he caught – just one of the four passes thrown his way was completed.
PFF Game Ball
Even though Tennessee lost, it’s hard to fault Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug who split the game ball like they split the Colt line.
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