NASHVILLE, Tenn. — While Tennessee's special teams and defensive units delivered plays Sunday that swayed momentum in a 27-10 win against Indianapolis, the Titans' offense worked through inconsistency, while finding some key plays.
Players and coaches said the team's offense is still not where it wants to be, but they were glad to see signs of recovery.
The Titans opened the game with three straight passes—completions from Matt Hasselbeck to Nate Washington for no gain, to Lavelle Hawkins for 7 yards and to Damian Williams for 27.
"That helps anybody," Williams said of the receptions. "When you can get the ball early and get a feel for how the game's going to go and anytime you can make big plays from the beginning, it definitely helps your confidence whether you're the quarterback, the receiver or the offense in general."
The Titans converted their second third down with a 5-yard pass from Hasselbeck to Hawkins on third-and-4, but the opening drive halted at the Colts' 33-yard-line. Rob Bironas blasted a 51-yard field goal, however, to put the Titans up with 7:01 remaining in the first quarter.
Tennessee's offense sputtered on its next three possessions, going three-and-out each time. Kavell Conner and Robert Mathis dropped Chris Johnson for a loss of five on second-and-6 to disrupt the first drive after the field goal. Pat Angerer stopped Johnson for no gain on second-and-4, and Johnson dropped a pass that Hasselbeck had to throw before he was ready on third-and-4 to end the second possession. Titans tight end Daniel Graham dropped a pass to begin the Titans' next possession, and Hasselbeck failed to hit Washington on a deep route on third-and-6 after Javon Ringer rushed for 4 yards on second down.
"Our defense did a great job of helping us out," Hasselbeck said. "We started slow, we got three points to start but we didn't play our best football."
Special teams provided the first lift for Tennessee Sunday. Patrick Bailey blocked a punt by Pat McAfee with his upper arm. The ball bounced down to the turf in the end zone and up to cornerback Jason McCourty's hands for a Titans touchdown with 9:52 left in the first half.
After the blocked punt, Tennessee's offense endured one more three-and-out the rest of the day. McCourty tipped a pass away from Colts receiver Pierre Garcon, and Titans safety Michael Griffin secured it for an interception that led to a 65-yard touchdown drive by Tennessee's hurry-up offense late in the first half.
"Our special teams scored a touchdown, which is obviously a great thing," Hasselbeck said. "I think we have to do a better job on offense. When our defense or special teams does score, you're on the sidelines for a long time, you can get out of rhythm. So you've just got to stay fresh, stay ready to go. There's a lot to correct, but I'm very excited about the win."
The Titans rotated snaps between Johnson and Ringer, with each running back having 14 rush attempts. Johnson finished with 34 yards on the ground and 17 receiving yards on three catches. Ringer finished with 60 yards rushing and caught five passes for 42 yards.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said the rotation went with the flow of the game, and that coaches believe both players can give Tennessee's offense the production it needs.
"We know we're a work in progress as a run game," Munchak said. "We know we're not where we want to be yet by any means so we have to keep working to improve that."