Titans slump back into familiar pattern

DeMarco Murray runs against the Colts defense.(photo by Donn Jones titansonline)

DeMarco Murray runs against the Colts defense. (photo by Donn Jones titansonline)

Let’s face it… the Indianapolis Colts own the Tennessee Titans. The Titans have not beaten their AFC South rivals in the past eleven attempts, and have never won in the Colts current home, Lucas Oil Field. It is the longest losing streak against a divisional rival in the NFL.

The Titans were optimistic in the wake of their 47-25 dismantling of the vaunted Green Bay Packers the previous week in Nissan Stadium. The Titans dug themselves into a big hole on Sunday against the Colts and just could not play their way out of it, even though they tried valiantly to come back from a 21 point deficit, eventually losing by only seven points, 24-17.

The Colts jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by running back Robert Turbin. They extended their lead to 14-0 when quarterback Andrew Luck connected with receiver Donte Moncrief for a two-yard touchdown. The Colts scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions.

On a fourth-and-1 from the two-yard line, Luck threw the ball to receiver T.Y. Hilton in the end zone. Even though Titans cornerback Perrish Cox was right there, the ball managed to slip through Cox’s hands and into Hilton’s arms, making the score 21-0.

“You have to be able to make those plays,” Cox said after the game, “and unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it.”

The Titans got on the scoreboard just before halftime when QB Marcus Mariota connected with DeMarco Murray for a three-yard touchdown pass on third down. Mariota side-stepped pressure from defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway and found Murray in the end zone, to make the score 21-7 at the half.

The Titans kept fighting, and they got back into the game. After taking over at their own two-yard line, Mariota drove the team 98 yards on nine plays, capping the drive off with a 34-yard touchdown pass to rookie Tajae Sharpe. It was the second touchdown in as many weeks for Sharpe, and it made the score 21-14.

The Titans cut the lead to 21-17 early in the fourth quarter on a 47-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop. But the Colts responded with a scoring drive that produced a 49-yard field goal from kicker Adam Vinatieri to make it 24-17 with 10:50 left.

The Titans were driving to try and tie the game late, but Murray was stopped on a fourth down play from the Indy 19-yard line with just over two minutes remaining, and the Colts ran out the clock.

“On fourth-and-1, and that’s your identity,’’ Titans coach Mike Mularkey said, “you have to be able to make a first down on that play, somehow, some way you have to find a way to make a yard.”

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 25-of-38 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Running back DeMarco Murray ran for 70 yards, giving him exactly 1,000 yards for the season. Receiver Rishard Matthews caught nine passes for 122 yards, and linebacker Derrick Morgan’s 1.5 sacks gave him a career-high with eight.

Sunday’s loss left players frustrated, but not without hope with five games to go in the season. The Titans are mathematically alive, still “in the hunt” in the playoff race in the AFC. Ahead of them, Oakland, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, New England and Miami all have six or more wins. There are five teams with five wins, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Baltimore, and Buffalo. All win totals are as of press time Monday before the Monday night game Nov. 22 (Houston v Oakland in Mexico City) and the Thanksgiving games Nov. 24 (including Pittsburgh at indianapolis).

The Titans (5-6) will face the Bears (2-8) on November 27, in Chicago. After that, they will have a bye week to rest up before hosting the Denver Broncos at Nissan Satadium on December 11. They finish out the (regular?) season at Kansas City Dec. 18, at Jacksonville Dec. 24, and at home against the Houston Texans on New Years Day. Watch each game live on NewsChannel Five at Noon.