The Tennessee Titans closed the worst season in their Volunteer State history at 2-14, with a 27-10 loss to the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. New Orleans scored 16 unanswered 4th quarter points to defeat Tampa Bay 23-20, meaning the Buccaneers secure the #1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft while the Titans end up at #2.
On a dark, damp, dreary day in Nashville, the Titans gave a like performance—though they did show they were professionals, playing hard and not merely playing out the string. But there was nowhere near enough on this day. Colts QB Andrew Luck played only the first half, yielding to former Titan Matt Hasselbeck in the second half. But nothing changed in regard to the direction this game was heading in.
It was an all-too-typical slow start for Tennessee. Managing only 22 yards in the first quarter, the Colts were not hot either. But they had the horses, literally, to get things going. On Indy’s second possession, after a missed opportunity on a Colts fumble, Luck hit Daniel Herron on a 26-yard-screen-play and later Coby Fleener for a seven-yard score for a 7-0 lead.
Special teams played a key role in the second quarter, flips in field position not going Tennessee’s way. Pat McAfee pinned the Titans at the ‘one’ with a 47-yard punt downed brilliantly by reserve safety Sergio Brown. The Titans picked up one first down. Then Brett Kern unleashed his best punt of the season, eluding return man Josh Cribbs and going into the end zone for 79 yards and a touchback.
Luck flipped it back finding Reggie Wayne down the far sideline for an 80-yard play completely botched by the Titans secondary. The play set a new Colts single-season passing record for Andrew Luck. Considering his predecessor, that is a very impressive mark to have. Wayne was stopped just outside the goal line, and Luck hit former Titan Jack Doyle for the one-yard score that made it 14-0.
Leon Washington’s 52-yard kickoff return shortened the field coming back and with 5:11 remaining in the first half, Charlie Whitehurst hit Kendall Wright over the middle for a six-yard touchdown making it 14-7. Cribbs then flipped it again with a 76-yard kickoff return leading to an Adam Vinatieri field goal and a 17-7 Indianapolis halftime lead.
Matt Hasselbeck came out for the second half as this game took a preseason feel. Try as they might, the Titans just could never get much together. Hasselbeck was efficient, going 13-for-19 to Luck’s 10-for-16. Little really changed until Adam Vinatieri’s 35 consecutive field goal streak ended wide left. Shonn Greene gave the Titans a little hope with a strong 52-yard run bursting through the middle, but fumbles and disorganization doomed Tennessee to a 31-yard Ryan Succop kick, 17-10.
The rest of this game was a mere formality. A comeback was possible in theory but never in actuality. Vinatieri redeemed himself from 26 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter. Once Hasselbeck hit Fleener for his second touchdown of the game from eight yards out with 3:22 left, all issues had been decided. Jordan Palmer, the fourth Titans quarterback to take the field this season, saw some mop-up duty and the Colts ran out the clock.
Indianapolis advances to Wild Card Weekend at 11-5, and will host a playoff game as the #4-seed in the AFC. Next for Tennessee is the 2015 NFL Draft, April 30-May 2 in Chicago.