INDIANAPOLIS – The mini-bye week will feel pretty darn good for the Indianapolis Colts (6-3).
That’s thanks to an outstanding second half performance on Thursday Night Football, with the Colts beating the Titans, 34-17.
What was learned from the Colts knocking off the Titans in Nashville?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. Best Half Of Season: One week after the Colts wilted down the stretch in their first true January test of the season, they passed this one on Thursday night with straight As. It came with the Colts down 17-13 at halftime and one of the most important halves the Colts will face all season awaiting them. It looked the exact opposite of last week, with the Colts making virtually every necessary play, across all three units. From a huge 3rd-and-1 sack by Denico Autry, to a career play by E.J. Speed blocking a punt, to Michael Pittman and Nyheim Hines stepping up in primetime, the Colts defined complementary football in the second half. They outscored the Titans, 21-0, leading to the 34-17 victory, which now places them tied atop the AFC South. Frank Reich noted after the game that the Colts had a key field goal to end the first half, and then carried that spark into what he labeled the best half of football this season. Considering the opponent, and the importance of what was at stake on Thursday, that’s certainly true.
2. Hines Shines On Birthday: Thursday was another reminder of how mind-boggling it was that Nyheim Hines got 1 touch in the final three quarters last Sunday. Hines was a clear focal point for the Colts on Thursday and gave this team a massive spark. With some space to show off his athletic ability, Hines touched the ball 17 times for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns. Early in Thursday’s first quarter, running backs coach Tom Rathman spotted a fire in Hines’ eyes and told Frank Reich they needed to ride No. 21. So the Colts did that, with Hines carrying the heaviest workload of his career. Hines, who turned 24 on Thursday, has never had an offensive performance like this in his career, doing it on the ground (12 carries for 70 yards, 1 touchdown) and in the receiving game (5 catches for 45 yards, 1 touchdown).
3. Offense Finds Success. With Tempo: If you read our content all week long, we were clamoring to see the Colts use some up-tempo, no-huddle pace to the offense. They did that on Thursday. Frank Reich said he and Nick Sirianni discussed the idea earlier in the week with Philip Rivers, before deciding to go full-throttle with it in the last 24 hours. The quick tempo idea was so smart with the Titans playing 77 defensive snaps on Sunday and then playing 41 in Thursday’s first half. The offense did get stuffed a couple times in short yardage, but when a unit doesn’t punt until 3 minutes to go in the 4th quarter, while also not committing a turnover, it’s a pretty darn good night. It was an aggressive, pedal to the floor, type of mindset from Frank Reich and Rivers thrived in the no-huddle. Rivers was 29-of-39 for 308 yards and a 1 touchdown. Rookie Michael Pittman had a career-night with 7 catches for 101 yards and a 21-yard rush, too.
4. Defense Shows Up In Second Half: We mentioned it earlier, but it’s worth repeating again: Denico Autry’s sack on a 3rd-and-1 with 4:53 to play in the 3rd quarter was the sneaky play of the game. After the offense had just gotten shutout on a 15-play drive with no points, the defense got off the field after just one first down thanks to Autry’s disciplined sack of Ryan Tannehill. Following that play from Autry, the Colts scored 14 points in the next 3 minutes of football (aided by some horrific Titans special teams). This won’t go down as one of the Colts best defensive performances of the season (they gave up 25 first downs, allowed 5.4 yards per carry to Derrick Henry and didn’t force a turnover) but they did rise to the occasion after halftime. Considering this was the first top-10 offense the Colts have faced in 2020, to give up 17 points is still a pretty solid performance.
5. Such An Important Divisional Win: When the NFL schedule came out in May, this game for the Colts was looked at as one of the most important of the season. And on Thursday, with the Colts at 5-3 and the Titans at 6-2, this one mattered a whole lot, even more so for Indianapolis. With the victory on Thursday, the Colts now have right around a 50 percent chance at winning the AFC South. When looking at the current Wild Card picture, the Colts needed a win, too, with some early tiebreakers not in their favor. We knew this four-game stretch (Baltimore, at Tennessee, Green Bay, Tennessee) would be so critical on many levels. Well, the Colts have secured the most important victory in that stretch. If they can beat the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 29th, they’ll be in control to win their first division title since 2014.
–Injury Report: The Colts had the following players inactive on Sunday: TE-Jack Doyle (concussion), QB-Jacob Eason, WR-Dezmon Patmon, , DE-Ben Banogu, CB-Tremon Smith. Cornerback Kenny Moore (ribs) left the game in the third quarter and did not return.
–Key Stat: The Colts have now won 20 of their last 24 games against the Titans.
–What’s Next: The Colts (6-3) will return home for two more games in November, first taking on the Packers (6-2) next Sunday at 4:25 PM.