By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee Titans get a chance to stretch their AFC South lead Thursday night as the second place Indianapolis Colts come to town. The Colts are furious at 5-3 after losing at home 24-10 Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens. The Thursday game is the first of two clashes between the Titans and Colts sandwiched around a game against the Ravens. With that tough schedule in front of them, it makes Sunday’s 24-17 victory over the Chicago Bears that improved their season mark to 6-2 even more welcome. But it also highlighted some problems that need to be remedied.
An injury to guard Roger Saffold only made the offensive line woes worse. He joined teammate Taylor Lewan on the sideline as the Titans had to go with two substitutes on the right side. That played a role in the season high three sacks suffered by QB Ryan Tannehill and the general high amount of pressure he faced most of the game. The Bears, who came into the game with one of the league’s best defenses, limited the Titans offense to 17 points, 10 in the first half, while also shutting down Derrick Henry.
Still, the Titans have to hope that the Colts cover A.J. Brown the same way that Chicago did. While he only had four catches, he had 101 yards in receptions and a touchdown. Jonnu Smith had the other. But the big news was the performance of the defense. General manager Jon Robinson made a bunch of moves last week. That left the Titans with only three outside linebackers on the roster and a lot of new faces. Cornerback Desmond King found himself starting despite not even practicing. King made his presence felt by recovering a fumble caused by Jeffrey Simmons and scoring a touchdown.
The Titans finally got some sacks against the Bears. But besides the three sacks, both Simmons and Daquan Jones had excellent games. They’ll need that same pressure against the Colts. Titan nemesis Andrew Luck is retired, replaced by Phillip Rivers, who’s only four yards shy of passing Dan Marino for fifth place on the all-time list. Rivers didn’t want to hear anything about that after the game, instead ripping the NFL for a controversial call on a disputed interception that turned the game in the Ravens’ favor.
He’s one of several new faces on the Colts. Those include kicker Rodrigo Blakenship, who’s replaced longtime Colts’ favorite Adam Vinateri. Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor had been having a solid season overall, though suffering from early problems with fumbles. Those resurfaced Sunday though, and after the Ravens got a 65-yard TD on a returned fumble, Taylor spent the second half on the bench with Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines playing most of the game.
The Colts have dominated the Titans in recent years, either keeping them out of the playoffs or preventing them from having home plaoff games. Thursday is a chance for the Titans to go up two games in the loss column and also remain undefeated in the division at 3-0.