INDIANAPOLIS —** The Titans dug themselves into a big hole on Sunday against the Colts.
A second-half rally fell short in a painful 24-17 loss here at Lucas Oil Stadium.
It left players frustrated, but not without hope with five games to go in the season.
The Titans, however, will now also have to dig themselves out of a hole in the AFC South as well.
"It is very frustrating, especially for a guy like me who has been playing against the Colts the last six years,'' Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said. "It (stinks), and it hurts deeply inside. It is time to get over the hump and beat them."
But it didn't happen on Sunday.
"It drives me crazy losing any game,'' Titans cornerback Jason McCourty said. "You want to win every time you step foot on the field and obviously we haven't been able to (against the Colts) and we want to do so. Part of beating them is getting to our ultimate goal, so it is deflating and disappointing.
"You just have to move on and get ready for the next one."
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 25-of-38 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns in the contest. Running back DeMarco Murray ran for 70 yards, giving him exactly 1,000 yards for the season. Receiver Rishard Matthews caught nine passes for 122 yards, and linebacker Derrick Morgan's 1.5 sacks gave him a career-high with eight.
But the only numbers that mattered in the end were on the scoreboard.
The Titans (5-6) have now lost 11 straight games to their AFC South rival. The Colts, meanwhile, improved to 5-5 with the win.
The Colts jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by running back Robert Turbin.
The Colts then extended the lead to 14-0 when quarterback Andrew Luck connected with receiver Donte Moncrief for a two-yard touchdown.
It got worse before it got better. The Colts scored again on their next possession, in the most agonizing way for the Titans.
On a fourth-and-1 from the two-yard line, Luck threw the ball to receiver T.Y. Hilton in the end zone, and Titans cornerback Perrish Cox was right there. The ball managed to slip through Cox's hands, however, and ended up in Hilton's arms, making it 21-0.
"You have to be able to make those plays," Cox said, "and unfortunately I wasn't able to make it."
The Titans finally got on the scoreboard just before halftime when Mariota connected with Murray for a three-yard touchdown pass.
On the third down play, Mariota side-stepped pressure from defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway before finding Murray in the end zone, which made it 21-7 at the half.
The Titans kept fighting, and they got back in it. After taking over at their own two-yard line, Mariota drove the team 98 yards on nine plays, capping the drive off with a 34-yard touchdown pass to rookie Tajae Sharpe. It was the second touchdown in as many weeks for Sharpe, and it made the score 21-14.
The Titans cut the lead to 21-17 early in the fourth quarter on a 47-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop. But the Colts responded with a scoring drive that produced a 49-yard field goal from kicker Adam Vinatieri to make it 24-17 with 10:50 left.
The Titans were driving to try and tie the game late, but Murray was stopped on a fourth down play from the Indy 19-yard line with just over two minutes remaining, and the Colts ran out the clock.
"On fourth-and-1, and that's your identity,'' Titans coach Mike Mularkey said, "you have to be able to make a first down on that play, somehow, some way you have to find a way to make a yard."
The Titans face the Bears next Sunday in Chicago.
After the game, players all said the team can't afford any more slow starts.
The Titans controlled the game on both sides of the football in the second half, but in the end, it wasn't enough.
"I wouldn't even call it frustrating as much as it disappointing, knowing we came out slow against Luck and their offense,'' Sharpe said. "Having a large deficit like we did is like being in the NBA playoffs and being down 3-1 in a seven-game series. It is tough.
"We just have to keep fighting. We are strong, and we are together as a team. A loss like this is going to make us work that much harder. This loss is past us now, and there's nothing we can do. And with the team we have, I know we will keep fighting."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Indianapolis Colts in Week 11 action at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)