Indianapolis Colts playoff prospects to enjoy rematch with Tennessee Titans – Indianapolis Colts blog
INDIANAPOLIS – The last time the Indianapolis Colts faced the Tennessee Titans – about 33 days ago – their starting quarterback was limited in the pocket by two ankle sprains and their All-Pro linebacker was moving like s ‘he was on the decline of his career because he too suffered from an ankle injury.
The Colts left Nissan Stadium on September 26 with a 25-16 loss, their third in a row to open the season.
But now quarterback Carson Wentz has been playing one of his best footballers in years, and linebacker Darius Leonard has said he feels about “80% better” than he felt at the end of September. Most importantly, the Colts have won three of their last four games to move up to 3-4, which puts them two games behind the Titans, who lead the AFC South.
That means their biggest test awaits Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, CBS) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis when they face the Titans in a rematch.
With a win, the Colts would be back in the thick of it in the AFC South race. With a loss, however, the Colts’ chances of winning the division would be slim as the Titans would not only have a three-game lead over their AFC South counterparts, but they would also have swept the series this season.
âNormally I never say it’s a game to win, but it’s a game to win,â Leonard said Thursday.
The Colts find themselves in their current position as they opened the season 1-4 with a tough schedule that included losses to the Titans, Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Rams.
As for the Titans, things were bound to get tough for them when they faced the Buffalo Bills (arguably the best team in the AFC) and Kansas City Chiefs (with star quarterback Patrick Mahomes) in less than ‘one week.
Too bad for that, as the Titans beat both teams to send a message that they have no plans to let go of their grip on AFC South.
Colts coach Frank Reich takes a completely opposite mindset from Leonard when it comes to discussing the importance of Sunday’s game. A loss won’t end the Colts’ playoff aspirations as they’ll still have nine games to play. But the easiest way to get to the playoffs is to win the division.
âExploding the scale of the game into our day-to-day preparations probably doesn’t do much,â Reich said. âI mean these guys are pretty motivated. Really, all that will win this game is the execution.
âSo actually sometimes my experience is that the emotion of the game can become a distraction. You want to find a way to use the emotion in a positive way to give yourself a little extra juice, but I just think that it can be overplayed, and if you’re over-amplified it doesn’t normally end well because what you’re being amplified for? One piece, one series? “
The Colts got back into the mix doing what they’re supposed to do: beat teams that have broken records.
What is missing from their record is a victory against a team with a winning record. They missed that opportunity when they lost a 19-point lead in the final 18 minutes of their overtime loss to Baltimore on Oct. 11. It was after this match that Wentz said they had to develop a “killer instinct” in order to be able to conclude. Games. They showed exactly that when they finished the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7.
âIn recent weeks, the way we have finished ball games has been encouraging,â said Wentz. âIt’s definitely ending up in a good way. We’re going back for a few weeks and we definitely haven’t. I think the guys kind of reacted, and everyone’s proud – it’s the fourth quarter, it’s time to go, it’s time to finish and not to rest.
There’s a huge difference between beating a struggling San Francisco team and beating a Tennessee team with Derrick Henry, who shows no signs of slowing down as the NFL’s first running back. Henry has run for at least 100 yards in four straight games (542 rushing yards overall) against Indianapolis. The Titans are 3-1 in those games.
Keep Henry within 100 rushing yards, a defense goal, and the Colts have a chance to make the AFC South run interesting. Ask him to keep running past, through and around them, and Indianapolis risks seeing their playoff hopes take a substantial hit.
“It’s a big job for anyone to take on Henry,” said Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. âIt’s a team effort. It’s everyone on the defensive. There are no guests at home, everyone has to tackle.â¦ You are not reinventing the wheel. It’s about playing fundamentally healthy; it’s about angles; it’s about tackling; and it’s about playing your responsibility, given every defensive call. mind, guys have that mindset and we’re so excited to get down to business this week.