The Indianapolis Colts established themselves as the dominant force in the AFC South, as they defeated the Tennessee Titans by a score of 34-17 on Thursday night. Philip Rivers completed 29 of 39 passes for 308 yards and a touchdown, and clearly made an effort to spread the wealth, as he connected with eight different receivers. The running backs were certainly important in the passing game, as Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor combined to register seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, and Hines also rushed for another 70 yards and a touchdown.
As for the Titans, they actually acquired a four-point halftime lead. However, their special teams completely derailed the contest in the third quarter, as the Colts exploded for 21 unanswered points in the second half to put the game away. A quick look at the box score will show you how this one went, as the Colts offense racked up 430 yards of total offense, while the Titans recorded just 294 total yards.
Why the Colts won
Why did the Colts win? They won because of NC State University! During the waning moments of this Thursday night matchup, Joe Buck of Fox Sports declared this "NC State Night," and he's exactly right. As we mentioned, Rivers (NC State alum) threw for 308 yards and a touchdown, backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett came in to seal the game with a two-yard touchdown and Hines accounted for 115 total yards and two touchdowns. While these former NC State players were great, all of Rivers' weapons certainly deserve credit. Rookie wideout Michael Pittman Jr. led all wideouts with seven catches for 101 yards and T.Y. Hilton also caught four of his five targets for a total of 40 yards.
Why the Titans lost
Leading up to this matchup, we spent plenty of time discussing if the Titans offense could find success against the Colts defense or if Rivers could exploit Tennessee's secondary, but we forgot to mention special teams! Reserve punter Trevor Daniel and veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski both failed to execute on Thursday night, and it was a big reason the Colts were able to pull off a 14-0 run in the third quarter. Daniel shanked a punt, had his next one blocked for a touchdown and then Gostkowski missed a 44-yard field goal after making a 50-yarder earlier in the game. While Daniel is possibly gone after this week, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was asked about Gostkowski's job security after the game, and he remained mum on the subject -- saying that the team will have to evaluate everything they do.
Can't remember the last time I saw THREE STRAIGHT drives end with a disastrous special teams play, which is what just happened to the #Titans— John Breech (@johnbreech) November 13, 2020
• 17-yard shanked punt (leads to Colts TD)
• Blocked punt returned for Colts TD
• Missed 44-yard field goalpic.twitter.com/Wixur7xvNL
Turning point and Play of the game
The Colts jumped on the Titans immediately from the start of the second half. While Indy turned the ball over on downs on their first possession after Jordan Wilkins was stood up at the goal line on fourth down, Daniel then shanked a punt that traveled a total distance of 17 yards on the Titans' ensuing possession. Since the Colts took over at the Titans' 27-yard line, it took Rivers and Co. just four plays to take the lead for the first time in the contest.
At this point in the game, the Titans needed to respond, but instead they went three and out and Daniel had his punt blocked for a touchdown that extended Indy's lead to 10 points. That's right, the Colts scored two touchdowns in 59 seconds of game time.
The Colts return to Indy next week, where they will host the Green Bay Packers next Sunday. Aaron Rodgers and Co. are atop the NFC North with a 6-2 record, and are set to face off against rookie quarterback Jake Luton and the Jacksonville Jaguars this week. The Titans hit the road to take on the Baltimore Ravens, who they booted from the playoffs just last January. There's no doubt that Lamar Jackson will be looking to score some revenge over Tennessee, as he said this offseason that he thinks about that playoff loss "constantly." Before he gets a chance at the Titans, however, the Ravens will have to defeat the New England Patriots in Foxborough on "Sunday Night Football."
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