Tennessee is again reeling from missed opportunities after a 30-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on a special Thursday Night Football game with the whole world watching, literally, on Nov. 14. The Titans (4-6) had a chance to move within a game of Indianapolis (7-3) but instead find themselves three games back with only six games left to catch up.
Fortunately for Tennessee, only five of the 16 teams in the AFC currently have winning records, as the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are both 9-1, and only three other teams (Cincinnati Bengals, Colts, and New England Patriots) have at least seven wins. The AFC East’s Miami Dolphins and New York Jets are at 5-5, and six teams (Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers) are log-jammed at 4-6, including the Titans. Buffalo is 4-7. Theoretically, if they win out, or possibly even with one more loss, the Titans could still make the playoff field as a Wild Card at 10-6 or 9-7. So, keep hope alive!
“We’ve got to go out there and win if we want to make it to the playoffs,” said Titans RB Chris Johnson after the game. “Every loss we get, it keeps getting slim to none as far as the playoffs. So we’ve got to step up and make plays.”
Johnson did his part, as he rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns on his first eight carries to give Tennessee a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Johnson had capped the Titans’ opening drive with a 30-yard touchdown run, his longest rush of the season.
“We’ve got to give the offensive line a lot of credit in the passing game and running game,” Johnson said. “Keeping those guys off of Fitz (Titans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick) and just in the running game, pushing those guys back, giving me some room to run.”
Tennessee had built a 17-3 lead with only 2:32 remaining in the first half, but Indianapolis responded with a field goal just before halftime. The Colts opened the third quarter with an 11-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a six-yard TD run by Donald Brown. Indianapolis took the lead for good when Andrew Luck faked a pass and ran for an 11- yard TD.
“It was not designed,” the QB said after the game. “Luckily it worked out.”
A 50-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri gave Indy a 23-17 lead. The Titans answered with a field goal by Rob Bironas early in the fourth quarter, pulling to 23-20. But Brown scored an 11-yard TD to put the Colts up 30-20 with 3:01 to go. Fitzpatrick led a quick drive that he capped with a 19-yard TD pass to Delanie Walker with 1:54 remaining to pull to within three points again, at 30-27. But Tennessee was unable to recover the ensuing onside kick.
Perhaps the team can regroup and get some much-needed wins on their three-game road swing. The Titans have signed veteran QB John Skelton (6-6, 250), who is in his fourth NFL season and has started 17 games during his time with the Arizona Cardinals. For his NFL career, he has thrown for 3,707 yards and 15 touchdowns, while producing three 300-yard performances. Titans season starting QB Jake Locker is out for the season with an injury.
They open with this Sunday’s game at Oakland, then go to Indianapolis to play the Colts again, then travel to Denver to face the Broncos. The Raiders and Broncos games air at 3:05 pm, CST, locally on CBS/WTVF. The Titans next home game is Sunday, Dec. 15 at noon against the Arizona Cardinals (6-4) in LP Field. That game will be on FOX/WZTV.