- Manning kept the pace slow and steady, able to eschew the no-huddle, hurry-up offense because the Colts held the lead.
- The slower pace and more frequent huddles contributed to the rookies’ ability to keep up.
- The Colts ran more than in the prior 3 games, in part because they had the luxury to do so because they had the lead, but even with a smaller lead the Colts kept at it.
- Forced into the LT position when Charlie Johnson injured his shoulder, Jeff Linkenbach put in a good performance… might we see him more at that position going forward?
- The defense was not very good tonight, allowing Tennessee, who had been held to 13 touchdown-less quarters, to score 4 touchdowns in the game. But frankly, on a short week, against a familiar opponent, and in the NFL… you can hope for a shut-out, but don’t expect one.
Reeling from a rare 3-game losing streak, and an unprecedented string of multiple-interception games, Peyton Manning opened the first series in Nashville with a slow, deliberate pace. Where fans are used to seeing the Colts in their no-huddle attack to open games, it seemed clear that they were content to move slowly if that meant opening with a score. Despite gaining only 35 yards in that opening drive and having to punt, the Colts held the ball for nearly 5 minutes, far longer than typical because they also showed more commitment to the run than the lip service paid in the past 3 weeks. After the defense forced the Titans on a 3-and-out and got the ball back, that patience paid off on a 6-minute 58-yard drive for a Javarris James touchdown.
From there, Titans mistakes ensued and the Colts capitalized. Tyjuan Hagler recovered a Kenny Britt fumble (forced by Freeney), and Peyton drove 59 yards for a touchdown on a pass to Pierre Garcon. Two series later, the Colts forced a punt, but the Titans’ snapper tossed it over Kern’s head and Taj Smith recovered at the Tennessee 19 yard line. Two plays later, Manning took advantage of blown coverage with another touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon to go up 21-0.
Then the Titans made things interesting. Aided by a personal foul on Cornelius Brown, the Titans needed only 55 yards to score their first offensive touchdown in 14 quarters, a 1-yard run by Chris Johnson. With the dreaded “two-for-one” to open the half (i.e., the Titans received the ball after effectively closing out the first half with it), Collins finally got his legs and went 62 yards to score on a 7-yard touchdown to former California Golden Bear TE Craig Stevens, who bowled over Philip Wheeler and Antoine Bethea on the way.
On the ensuing drive, Manning sparked the drive with a 46-yard bomb dropped right into Reggie Wayne’s hands over Cortland Finnegan. With 3rd and goal at the 3, Manning read the coverage perfectly, changed the play at the last minute, and XL950 called what ensued “a microcosm of the season.” With the pass headed straight for Reggie Wayne in the back of the end zone, Blair White curled into Wayne’s space and put his hands up for the ball, deflecting it from Wayne’s grasp. The Colts settled for a Vinatieri field goal to go up 24-14.
After another series fizzled for the Titans, the Colts picked up another FG after an 8-minute drive that started on their own 27. That included Manning going for it on 4th and 4 from the Titans’ 36, and calling a run play that Javarris James turned into an 11-yard gain. The Titans once again exposed the Colts’ poor coverage game and gassed defense, returning the ensuing kickoff to their 34, and driving for a 4-yard touchdown pass to Bo Scaife. After the teams traded 3-and-outs, the Colts got going from their 25 when Manning forced a potentially dangerous pass into Garcon in the slot. Garcon grabbed the ball out of the air, ran into three Titans defenders, then miraculously bounced off of them and up the sideline for 43 yards. Vinny added a third FG, this one from 47 yards, and the Colts held a 9-point lead with 2:50 left.
The Titans did drive down to score a touchdown on the final drive of the game, but badly mismanaged the clock and didn’t have enough time to even attempt an on-sides kick that might have set them up for a game-winning field goal. Matt Millen and Joe Theismann were right… with 30 seconds remaining, the Titans should have lined up Bironas to kick 3, then used the remaining time to at least attempt the onsides kick. Instead, they kept throwing down the middle of the field and wasting precious seconds.
In the end, the Colts won a game that they should have won, Peyton reverted back to the Peyton we know, and the Colts get 10 days to rest up before they host a surging Jaguars team.