2009 Game Recap – Week 5: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans

To help pass time this off-season, I’ve reviewed the Colts’ regular season games from 2009. With this second look at how the team played, a few thoughts have occured to me which were not obvious during the initial viewing, and I thought it a good opportunity to rethink some of my previously held opinions of the team I love. So, with your kind indulgence, as I view a game at a time I’ll be sharing my impressions.

Personal Note: This is not, and was never intended to be, an objective, unbiased review of an NFL contest. It is instead a glimpse into the emotional ride experienced by the average Colt fan at game time. My Homerism switch is engaged and turned up to eleven. With that in mind, I invite you to join me as we re-live the highs and lows of the 2009 Indianapolis Colts season.

Today’s Game: Week 5 – Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans

Setting The Stage

  • The Colts come into the week 5 Sunday night game at 4-0 — leading the AFC South. Kerry Collins and Chris Johnson lead the Titans who have struggled early and sit at 0-4. Charlie Johnson is out, so Tony Ugoh gets the start and will line up against Tennessee’s Kyle Vanden Bosch. With Chad Simpson hurting, T.J. Rushing will handle kickoff and punt returns. Gary Brackett returns after missing two games, but Kelvin Hayden is sitting out another game. Peyton Manning is enjoying his best start ever as an NFL QB; 97 completions for a 70.8% completion percentage and 1,336 yards, in the first four games of a season. All are career highs. During his last three road games, his passer rating has been 140.7 (Jaguars), 133.9 (Dolphins), and 130.5 (Cardinals). He’s the only player in NFL history to earn a rating of 130+ in 3 consecutive road games (15 passes min). This is the first Colts/Titans game since the departure of Albert Haynesworth.
  • The Field: LP Field, near the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee, is an open-air stadium. It’s a clear night with temps in the mid-fifties.
  • The Crowd: Those wacky Titan fans. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they didn’t like us much. Actually, they don’t seem to like their own team much either. By the 3rd quarter, they’re chanting ‘We want Vince!’ They get him half-way through the 4th with the game out of hand and he throws 2 near-interceptions on his first series.

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  • The Network Coverage: Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth for NBC Sports. Michaels still can’t pronounce Antoine Bethea’s name right. Collinsworth relates how Nick Harper was surprised to learn that the Titans had 90% of the Colts calls, audibles, and signals. But he learned that, even with that knowledge it’s not enough; you still have to execute well enough to stop them. Collinsworth mentions that Kerry Collins recommended Jim Caldwell to Tony Dungy when Tony was searching for staff to join him in Indianapolis and that Collins called Caldwell ‘the greatest quarterback coach I’ve ever had in my life’. According to Peyton, he’d like, just once, to try quieting the crowd on the road to see if he can trick them. After the game, Peyton responds dismissively when asked if he lobbied to stay in the game to reach 300 yards. Austin Collie joins Peyton for the after-game interview, handles himself well, and gets a pat and a ‘Way to go, man’ from Peyton as they move off-screen. Tony Dungy thinks the Colts are playing better this year than last; including special teams.

Key Plays

1st Qtr:

  • The Colts get the ball first but the drive falters, and they punt. Tennessee’s first drive also comes up short after a vicious hit by Bethea causes an Algie Crumpler fumble. Antoine puts his helmet on the ball, and Keyunta Dawson gathers it and advances 10 yards to the Titans’ 23. I love how quickly Antoine turns from defensive ball-hawk to offensive blocker to help Dawson break free. Five Titans offensive plays and a turnover. Yeah, this could be a good night.

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  • Now, there’s something you don’t see every day; Tony Ugoh gets his face mask tangled with Tony Brown’s. It’s not something I’d like to see again, frankly; two big uglies, one lying on the other, face-to-face. That was uncomfortable.
  • Touchdown Reggie Wayne! Now this is a much more pleasant sight; on fourth-and-one at the Titans’ two yard line, Coach Jim Caldwell decides to go for it. Peyton rolls to his right and hits Wayne on the post. Garçon with the pick play to give Reggie room, and the Colts have their first points of the night. Colts 7-0.

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  • This too is nice to see; smothering kickoff coverage stops the Titans at their 17. Good containment and lots of white shirts contributing to the tackle. Maybe Dungy’s on to something.
  • Awesome! A wicked hit by Clint Session stops Titans’ RB Chris Johnson in his tracks on second-and-three. Heard that one all the way up here. One rushed Collins’ pass later, Tennessee punts.
  • Ugh… Special teams not so special. Tim Jennings just lost track of where he was on the field and backs into T.J. Rushing who was attempting the fair catch. The ball hits Jennings, bounces away from Rushing, and the Titans recover at the Colts’ 37.

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  • Great job by the DL of stretching out the run along the line of scrimmage and containing Johnson for a loss. Muir penetrates and blows up the play.
  • Powers! Jerraud with awesome man-to-man coverage and a pass deflection on a critical third-and-four. Very cool to watch the rookie gain confidence and become a major factor in pass protection. Tennessee settles for the FG. Colts lead cut to 7-3.
  • Clark for 24! Dallas gets open over the middle, and Peyton hits him for a finger-tip catch. Colts driving and looking sharp.
  • Ugh #2… Manning intercepted. Tony Ugoh gets beat pretty badly, and Manning is hit as he throws. The ball floats to a Titans’ LB who returns it to the Colts’ 35. Dallas Clark with good hustle to make the tackle. Man, that’s disappointing, but the Titans can’t take advantage of their great field position; self-destructing with penalties, false starts, and dropped passes. They settle for yet another field goal. Colts lead 7-6.

2nd Qtr:

  • After both teams punt, the Colts string together several nice plays and drive the length of the field. A key completion to Clark over the middle, and then two consecutive completions to Collie; a 13 yarder to the left for a key first down on third-and-eight, the second a nine yard gain to the right. Then, Wayne with a pretty, well-timed comeback to the left sideline for twelve (Peyton sees one-on-one coverage and audibles), and an amazing pass against good coverage to Clark. Talk about perfect placement!

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  • TD Joseph Addai! After a 19 yard completion to Wayne moves the Colts into the red zone, and a four yard run by Addai puts Indy at the one, Mike Pollak and Jeff Saturday open a huge hole for Addai’s TD run. Ugoh does a nice job of trapping the safety. This caps a 90-yard, 12-play drive and extends the Colts’ lead to 14-6.
  • Nice! Jacob Lacey with perfect coverage on Gage to break up a potential TD in the end zone. The rookie really looks good. Gary Bracket hits Collins on the very next play, forcing an off-balance throw and ending an otherwise potent Titans’ drive. Another Tennesee FG, and the Colts’ lead is cut to 14-9.
  • After an unsportsman-like-conduct penalty for forming a three-man wedge on the kickoff return, the Colts’ offense takes over at their seven with 57 seconds remaining. The hurry up is effective: Clark for eight (plus 15 against Vanden Bosch for contacting the QB’s knees), Addai for six on the delayed dump-off, a great play by Manning to complete a two-yard completion to Addai as he’s going down, a key third-and-two run by Addai, and another 15 yards for roughing the passer, the Colts are in Tennessee territory with 25 seconds remaining.
  • Touchdown Collie! The O-line gives Peyton good protection, and Manning leads Austin down the middle. Collie avoids one defender and plows through a second for the 37 yard score. Colts travel 93 yards in 47 seconds to go up 21-9. This offense can be downright unstoppable.

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  • Good special teams coverage with Jennings showing good hustle and a sure tackle. Titans stopped at their fifteen where Collins kneels to run out the clock. End of the half with Indy up 21-9.

3rd Qtr:

  • Jennings INT! Tim with tight man-to-man coverage, a well timed lunge for the ball, and the strength to rip it away from the receiver. After messing up on that punt return, Jennings seems intent on making a big play, and he’s done it. Colts’ ball at the Tennessee 31. Nice job, Tim!

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  • Having completed 16 consecutive attempts, Manning has a pass batted into the air by the defensive line, but he’s able to reach up and knock the ball to the ground. Sixteen? Whoa.
  • Collie with his second TD! On second-and-goal from the Titans’ six, the play fake draws the LB up, and Collie slips through the middle into the end zone. Austin displays sure-hands and does some end line toe-tapping to assure the score. That was pretty! Colts up big at 28-9.

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  • On their next series, Tennessee looks very good… and equally bad; it changes play-to-play. Mathis and Freeney continue to get good pressure (Robert Mathis spins out of a double-team and wraps up Collins as he’s throwing), the CBs make big plays to break up passes (Lacey with a leaping break up), and the run pursuit continues to contain Johnson. Still, Tennesee reaches deep into Colts’ territory before turning the ball over on downs… and the bags appear. Stay classy, Titans fans.
  • Jennings makes yet another nice ST stop. He’s the first down-field and tackles the returner for no gain. He’s definitely making up for the muffed punt earlier.
  • Freeney sack! Dwight powers through the LT’s obvious hold and corrals Collins. Nice, and it leads to a critical third-and-eleven pass that should have been intercepted by Lacey. Titans punt, and the chants for Vince start.

4th Qtr:

  • The Colts start their next series with Dan Federkeil at left guard, replacing Tony Ugoh. And I have to wonder if this is due to injury, poor play on Tony’s part, or the fact that the Colts have a 19 point lead. Whatever the reason, it’s an opportunity to see a player I’ve not seen much of.
  • On third-and-three, at mid-field, Federkeil is beaten by the right defensive end, and Manning has to release the ball early. Wayne makes the catch for a gain of 15 yards. Colts receivers were in trips-right, and Wayne slipped across the middle for the reception. Ryan Diem also was beaten on the play, and Manning had two defenders in his face when he threw.
  • Collie with a key pick up on third-and-seven from the Titans’ 19. He lines up in the slot and crosses over the middle. Barely avoiding the umpire, he’s able to dodge a tackle and drive for the first down. This has been a huge game for Austin and really enjoyable watching him do so well.
  • Wayne with an uncharacteristic drop! On third-and-goal, Manning hits Wayne on the quick slant for a sure TD… except that Reggie drops the ball. If this game had been closer, that drop would have been frustrating. As it is, I find a bit of humor in the fact that Reggie tried to make it look like he caught the ball and spiked it. The refs aren’t buying it. Colts settle for the Vinatieri FG and lead 31-9.
  • With 7:26 remaining in the game, the crowd goes wild! OK, I exaggerate; but they do cheer when Vince Young takes the field. Just for fun, let’s track his snaps:
    1. A rather bad pass which is too low for his receiver to reach, but Tim Jennings almost makes a great INT.
    2. A hand-off to Lendale White for a gain of five yards. I must say, he accomplished the hand-off with style.
    3. An aborted pass play which results in a first down. The Colts D gets good penetration, and Young has no one to throw to. Instead of taking the sack, he steps out of the pocket and uses his speed to run for the first. Not bad at all, and the crowd goes crazy. No, really.
    4. A hand off to White for a gain of seven.
    5. A good pass which hits the hands of his WR and bounces off.
    6. A pass into coverage; one which Clint Session should have intercepted.
    7. Vince leads the offense off the field, and the crowd boos.
  • On a quick out to Wayne, Peyton surpasses 300 yards for the game.
  • Interesting that on a day when T.J. Rushing is handling kickoff returns, Chad Simpson makes his debut at RB late in the game. No gain, as the LB slices through to collar him at the line of scrimmage. The Colts at their 46, second-and-ten, at the two-minute warning. On the next play, Simpson follows good blocking by Diem and DeVan for a gain of six, but they can’t convert third-and-three, and they bring in McAfee to punt with 1:05 remaining.
  • Titans run out of time, and the game ends with the score of 31-9.

Overall Impressions:

  • The Offense: They looked great. They looked awful. Four touchdowns, four punts, one interception, and one field goal. That’s certainly enough to win the game; especially on a day when your defense plays so well. But once again, they couldn’t drain the clock and ended up punting the ball away late in the game. Still, when your starting left tackle is out and your replacement LT gets pulled, and you still control the ball for 33:38 and score 31 points, it’s a good day.
  • The Defense: On the defensive side, there were important stops when they needed them. They held the best running back in the league to 34 yards (White added 51), didn’t allow the Titans into the red zone once, and gave up only FGs. That’s impressive. It seems like Dan Muir got more playing time, replacing Ed Johnson, than in previous weeks, and I wonder if the coaches have started having doubts about Johnson at this point in time. While they gave up 239 rushing yards to Miami, the Colt D has allowed an average of 77 yards in their other four games. That’s impressive, and as a fan, it’s good to see this new defensive scheme paying dividends.
  • Special Teams: McAfee’s kickoffs seem to be getting deeper as the season goes on. Other than Jennings’ mistake on the muffed punt early in the game, coverage and returns were pretty good.

Random Thoughts:

  • With few exceptions, this was not a game of big plays; it was a hard-fought game between teams that know each other well. It was a game won in the trenches; a game of big hits and near misses, some poor tackling, lots of missed opportunities and penalties, and adjusting to take advantage of your opponent’s mistakes. For two teams that don’t like each other, there really does seem to be a lot of mutual respect. Several times tonight, I saw instances of Colt players helping a Titan up off the ground and vice versa.
  • Peyton passes Fran Tarkenton, taking over fifth place in career passing yards. He also hits 300 yards for the fifth consecutive game to start a season. Kurt Warner and Steve Young are the only other QBs to accomplish this. Also, compared to all QBs through their first career 180 games, Manning ranks 1st in completions, touchdowns, and wins and 2nd in passing yards. While these stats are impressive, I have to ask if they include games a QB sat on the bench. If by 180 games they really mean 180 starts, then Manning’s rankings are much more impressive.
  • Everyone has an opinion, and NFL broadcasters are paid for theirs. Having said that, and admitting freely that I rather enjoy Collinsworth, he really needs to stop this ‘Manning has to be a multi-SB winner to be considered elite like Bradshaw, Montana, and Marino’. Really, Cris? Elite like Bradshaw? Multi-SB winner like Marino? Dude, just shut up.
  • Manning spent way too much time on the ground in this game. And it wasn’t just that Charlie Johnson was out; protection was poor too often. Even so, at one point in the game, 18 had completed 13 consecutive passes, and even with pressure, I’m constantly amazed how accurate Peyton is. The window on his completion to Clark in the 2nd, which picked up a first down on the way to a key Colts TD, was only inches wide… too far to the left, it’s out of Clark’s reach… too far to the right, it’s tipped by the defender. The guys’ accuracy is amazing.
  • Oh look… the Pats lost to Denver.
  • The Colts win their 14th straight regular season game, a franchise record.

Colts win 31-9 to go 5-0 on the season.

Total Run yards
Colts: 58
Titans: 90

Total Passing yards
Colts: 309
Titans: 155

Manning: 36-44, 309 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Addai: 14 carries, 27 yards
Brown: 6 carries, 22 yards
Collie: 8 receptions, 97 yards, 2 TDs
Clark: 9 receptions, 77 yards
Wayne: 6 receptions, 60 yards, 1 TD

Other games in the series: