NASHVILLE – The Titans beat the Indianapolis Colts 25-16 on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things that stood out in the contest …
Ola Adeniyi's Impact
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise for the Titans on defense so far has been the play of outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi. A former Steeler, Adeniyi arrived in Nashville at the same time as heralded pass rusher Bud Dupree. While Dupree has worked his way back from injury, Adeniyi has worked his way into backfields. It was Adeniyi who had the key sack in overtime last week at Seattle, and it was Adeniyi who led the Titans with 1.5 sacks on Sunday. He also had another sack taken off the stat sheet because of defensive penalty, and he finished the game with three QB hits and four tackles as well. In three games, Adeniyi leads the Titans in sacks (2.5), and he's provided a big boost to the defense. "You just have to do your job," Adeniyi said. "Every man, do your job, and we're good. And that's what we did. … It feels great (to contribute). When everybody is getting production, and working together, it feels great."
Ryan Tannehill has guts, and if you don't believe it, just put in the tape from Sunday. Yes, Tannehill threw two picks against the Colts, so he wasn't perfect. But the Titans quarterback rose to the challenge when his top targets weren't available in the game, and he guided the team to the win. Tannehill also picked up some big yardage on runs that helped the Titans win. Tannehill carried the ball five times for 56 yards, including runs of 17 and 28 yards. He took some big hits at the end of the runs, although he didn't seem to mind. With a smile, Titans running back Derrick Henry said Tannehill needs to slide. "He doesn't do it," Henry said of Tannehill, "but that is who he is." Titans head coach Mike Vrabel let Tannehill hear about it as well. "I got some words from Vrabel," Tannehill said with a smile. "I am sure I will get more tomorrow when we are watching the tape. I try not to take any big hits, try to be smart with it. If I can get on the edge or the shoulder and it is not going to be a big hit, then I am all right with it. Definitely don't want to take one square. … You look at those, and then the last run on the sidelines, trying to just get the first down and stay in bounds there so really didn't think a slide was a good option there."
Titans Stepping Up
The Titans dealt with one injury after the next on Sunday. Dupree suited up but didn't play, A.J. Brown was sidelined early, Rashad Weaver needed to be helped off the field, and cornerback Kristian Fulton also went down for a stretch late. The Titans also didn't play receiver Julio Jones late in the game for what appeared to be precautionary reasons. But several players stepped up, from receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine scoring on an 18-yard touchdown pass to cornerback Breon Borders making some big plays in coverage to running back Jeremy McNichols scoring on a 10-yard toss to Adeniyi once again making an impact. Safety Dane Cruikshank was solid while starting at safety. The Titans won on Sunday on a day when Westbrook-Ikhine, receiver Chester Rogers and McNichols scored the team's only touchdowns. How many predicted that would be the case? "It's what we preach all the time," said Westbrook-Ikhine, who caught his first career touchdown. "It's our 'Next man' mentality. We say in the locker room, 'You might not wake up tomorrow and have the opportunity to go make plays, make the most of it."
Of course, running back Derrick Henry had a big day, something he often does. Henry once again went over the 100-yard mark, carrying the ball 28 times for 113 yards on the day against a physical Colts defense. Heading into the contest, Henry was the only back who'd eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the past 50 games against the Colts, and he did it three times. Add another 100-yard game for the big back. Henry also caught three passes for 31 yards in the contest, and some of them were important chain-movers. Henry made his presence known time and again on Sunday, and if you don't believe it, just ask Colts linebacker Darius Leonard – Henry sent him flying with an angry run on Sunday. "How did I perform?," Henry said, repeating a question after the game. "We won, that is all that matters."
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel gets criticism when things go wrong, so he deserves some praise when things go right. Vrabel made two gutsy calls on Sunday, and they played a big part in the win. Early on, Vrabel elected to go for it on a 4th and 4 from the Indianapolis 41. The Titans got it – on a 15-yard pass from Tannehill to Jones. The Titans capped that drive off with a touchdown pass to take an early 7-0 lead. The call I liked most came at the end, after the Titans took a 20-13 lead on the touchdown catch by McNichols. Instead of kicking the extra point to make it 21-13, Vrabel elected to go for two – and the Titans got it on a run by Henry. The conversion made it a two-score game (22-13) and changed the way the game was played down the stretch.
The Titans rose to the occasion time and again on Sunday, despite being put in a tough spot by an offense that turned the ball over three times. On a day when the offense wasn't at its best, this was a gut-check performance by the defense. In Sunday's win, the Titans only allowed one touchdown, and it forced the Colts to try four field goal attempts when drives stalled. The Titans held the Colts to just 3-of-12 (25 percent) on third down, and they sacked quarterback Carson Wentz two times while racking up 10 quarterback hits. The Colts managed just 265 yards in the game. Linebackers David Long and Rashaan Evans led the way with eight tackles, but the contributions came in a number of areas. In addition to Adeniyi, outside linebacker was credited with five QB hits along with a half-sack. "It's just one of those deals where it's about being complementary," safety Kevin Byard said. "When the offense is playing well, the defense has got to step up." Said Wentz: "Hats off to them for making it tough on us today."