NASHVILLE, Tenn. — What caught our eye from the Indianapolis Colts’ 19-17 win over the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Nissan Stadium in Nashville:
Nice bounce-back effort by Matt Eberflus’ bunch. A week after giving up 7.4 yards per play, 6.0 yards per rush and 7-of-11 third-down conversions to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Colts’ defense tightened things up considerably. The Titans were limited to 288 total yards (4.4 per snap) and 4.9 yards per rush. More impressively, they converted just 1-of-10 times on third down, and the game ended with Marcus Mariota’s incompletion on fourth-and-2.
“Just felt like the defense overall today really played well in all phases,’’ Frank Reich said in his post-game presser. “If you’re a defense and you hold an opponent, especially that kind of an opponent, to 1-for-10 on third down, you should win that game.’’
After Tennessee scored on its first two second-half drives – Derrick Henry’s 1-yard TD, Cairo Santos’ 49-yard field goal – Indy stiffened. The Titans’ final four possessions: missed field goal, two punts and the failed fourth down pass with 11 seconds remaining.
Darius Leonard’s 7-yard sack of Mariota made Santos’ field goal a 45-yarder rather than a 38-yarder. Rookie safety Khari Willis made a sure tackle on Tajae Sharpe, limiting him to a 9-yard gain on third-and-10.
And on the game-sealing play, corner Quincy Wilson offered tight coverage on A.J. Brown and forced an incompletion.
The defense failed to come up with a takeaway, but the pressure was there for a second week with four sacks: two from Denico Autry and one each from Leonard and Grover Stewart. Leonard bounced back from a poor opener with a team-high 10 tackles and the sack.
Brissett joins the club
Jacoby Brissett wasn’t flashy, just good enough. He passed for only 146 yards and completed just 17 passes, but three were for TDs – 3 yards to Eric Ebron, 12 to rookie Parris Campbell and 4 to T.Y. Hilton.
The game-winner to Hilton came with 4:38 to play in the fourth quarter and capped what was a thunderbolt drive. After 3- and 7-yard runs by Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins ran through the heart of the Titans defense for a career-long 55 yards. That gave the offense a first-and-goal at the 4, and set up the Brissett’s back-shoulder throw to Hilton, who beat Malcolm Butler to the left corner.
The win was the second fourth-quarter/overtime comeback of Brissett’s career.
Also, he joined Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Dan Orlovsky and Josh Freeman as the only Colts QB to beat the Titans since 2003.
The last interception suffered by Brissett came Dec. 3, 2017 in week 13 at Jacksonville. The next one: Sunday in the second quarter when Logan Ryan got him.
Brissett’s streak of passes without an interception ended at 167. That’s the fifth-longest streak in Colts’ history: Jeff George, 202; Peyton Manning, 190; and Jim Harbaugh 179 (twice).
Was there any doubt what was going on in Reich’s mind as his offense faced a fourth-and-1 with 2:24 remaining in the fourth quarter at the Indy 35?
“It really wasn’t much of a decision,’’ he insisted. “I never even considered anything else other than going for it. At that point with the confidence in our offensive line, confidence in Jacoby – he’s a big, strong guy as well – there’s no chance we weren’t going for that.’’
Initially, Brissett attempted to draw the Titans offsides. When that didn’t work, Reich called timeout. Then, he sent Brissett behind center Ryan Kelly and Quenton Nelson for 1 yard and the first down.
The Colts ended up punting three plays later, but the decision reinforced Reich’s faith in his players and his aggressive reputation. Had Brissett been stopped, the Titans already would have been in range for a long field goal.
“I’m not trying to sound like a tough guy,’’ Reich said, “but (punting) really didn’t cross my mind.’’
The Colts now have won 19 of the last 22 against the Titans and 27 of 33. The rematch is Dec. 1 in Lucas Oil Stadium.
On the run
The Colts’ 370 rushing yards are the most in their Indy history and the third-most in team history in the first two games of a season.
The Colts rushed for 173 of their 203 yards in the second half against the Chargers. Sunday, their 173 yards again was similarly skewed: 68 in the first half, 99 in the second half.
Cornerback Pierre Desir was helped off the field early in the third quarter with an injury to his right knee and did not return. He suffered the injury on Mariota’s 25-yard completion to Corey Davis.
And be sure to catch the Colts Blue Zone Podcast: