NASHVILLE – The Titans lost to the Indianapolis Colts 34-17 on Thursday night at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the game as the team begins to turn its attention to next Sunday's game at the Baltimore Ravens.
A Heavy Heart
Titans receiver Corey Davis played with a heavy heart on Thursday night, and it was evident from the moment he stepped on the field. Davis had tears streaming down his face during the National Anthem. Titus Davis, Corey's older brother, died of cancer on Wednesday at the age of 27. "As he was laying there all he kept telling my sister was to tell me to play, regardless of what happens," Davis said after the game. "He just kept telling me to play, telling me to play throughout the whole process. That's my biggest fan. Since I was a little kid I was always chasing after him and trying to be like him. I wore his number every year to copy him. He thought it was annoying, but I looked up to him tremendously. That was my idol, my hero. I tried to honor him tonight." Davis had five catches for 67 yards against the Colts. After the game, his teammates praised him for commitment. "It was heavy on my mind, every play," Davis said. "But I just kept thinking this is what he wanted me to do. He wouldn't want me to be sad and sulk and feel sorry for myself. I obviously miss him and wish he was here, but I know he's in a better place and that he was with me today."
Frustration on Defense
The Titans couldn't get off the field on Thursday night. Colts quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 308 yards, and he orchestrated one long scoring drive after the next. The Colts controlled the football during the game's most critical stages, and frustrated Tennessee defenders. While the Colts were just 4-of-12 on third down, they were 3-of-5 on fourth down. "A lot of times we were shooting ourselves in the foot," Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "Instead of actually making offenses beat us, we're beating ourselves. So I mean obviously we get these three days off to kind of reflect." The Titans have allowed 30 or more points in five of the team's nine games.
Special Teams Issues
The Titans hurt themselves once against with mishaps on special teams, and it proved costly against the Colts. Punter Trevor Daniel had a punt blocked, and it was returned for a touchdown. Daniels also shanked a punt – it traveled just 17 yards – at a critical time. And Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 44-yard field goal after nailing a 50-yarder earlier in the game. While Cam Batson's return on the opening kickoff – after a fake reverse – was nice, it was long forgotten on a night when special teams weren't so special. "I've got a lot of confidence in (special teams coach) Craig (Aukerman) and Ryan (Crow) and what they do," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. "We have got to continue to hold people accountable and continue to improve. But no, I think that those guys, I'm very confident that they know what they're doing. I know what they coach. I'm in those meetings. I'm there at practice. So, we just, we'll keep working and making sure that we start playing better in that area and performing better because we have."
The Colts entered the game as the NFL's No. 3 ranked run defense, allowing just 83.6 yards per game. The Titans nearly doubled that number on Thursday, rushing for 157 yards. It was the third time in 2020 and the third time in a five-game span totaling at least 150 rushing yards. Sure, there were some ugly, negative runs. But running back Derrick Henry registered his fifth 100-yard rushing game of 2020 with 103 yards on 19 rushing attempts. In the process he reclaimed the NFL rushing lead in 2020 (through Thursday, Nov. 12) with 946 yards on 201 carries (4.7 avg.). "They just played better than us in all three phases and hats off to them," Henry said of the Colts. "We've just got to take a couple days off and then get back to work. No excuses. Just we have to be better as a team. We know that. We need to fix the mistakes and do better this week coming up."
Costly Offensive Mistakes
The Titans didn't turn the football over, and if you look at the stat sheet the numbers don't look that shabby – 25 first downs, 294 yards of offense, and the 157 rushing yards as previously mentioned. But the Titans hurt themselves with mistakes and missed opportunities. With the Titans holding a 7-0 lead, receiver A.J. Brown let what looked like a sure touchdown go off his hands. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill missed tight end Jonnu Smith on what could have been a big play, and the Titans were 3-of-10 on third down. It all added up a frustrating night that saw the Titans get shut out in the second half. "On the whole, we just have to be able to execute better and make the plays that come up," Tannehill said. "There's opportunities there and we're just not making enough plays when we get those opportunities."
Not long ago the Titans were 5-0 and sitting pretty atop the AFC South. Now the team is 6-3, tied with the Colts in the division. And the road gets tougher from here. Next up is a trip to Baltimore to face a 6-2 Ravens team that will be looking to avenge last year's playoff loss. Then the Titans will travel to Indianapolis to face these same Colts, and the much-improved Browns (5-3) are on the horizon. And let's not forget the Titans have a December 27 game in Green Bay (6-2). The Titans have a tough road ahead, and they'd better get things cleaned up. "(We have to) get healthy and try to get in your best mindset because you know you have to make a run now," Titans center Ben Jones said. "That's what this season is about, you have to play your best ball in November and December."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)