Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans: Behind Enemy Lines
The Indianapolis Colts head south to face another divisional foe this week. The much improved Tennessee Titans are hoping to notch their third straight win this weekend.
The Colts are struggling to keep their heads above water after an embarassing collapse against the Texans last week. They’re on the road again and have a chance to earn their first AFC South win against the surprising 3-3 Titans.
We spoke with the editor of Titan Sized to get some inside info on this week’s foe. Matias Wodner gave us the goods on the Titans prior to this week’s game.
Here’s what Wodner had to say:
1. The Titans have already won as many games as all of last season and have been competitive in their losses too. Was this level of improvement expected or has it been a surprise?
While I was expecting them to finish around 7-9 or 8-8, I was extremely skeptical of Mike Mularkey and the coaching staff. They didn’t show anything over the second half of last year. This season started just as flat and many Titans fans (myself included) were calling for Mularkey’s head. But over the past two weeks, things seem to really be headed in the right direction.
The coaching staff is using a simplified version of their “exotic smashmouth” and creating favorable scenarios/matchups for Marcus Mariota and the receivers. The defense has been playing much better than expected since the beginning of the year.
We’re wise to temper expectations because we’ve seen this team let us down before, but there are a lot of good signs as we head into the second half of the season.
2. Overall, Marcus Mariota looks like an improved player, but he’s turning the ball over at a higher rate. Is this concerning or is the good outweighing the bad? Did the Titans find their franchise player?
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For the first four weeks, there wasn’t much good to outweigh the bad. He was throwing balls he shouldn’t have and he was skittish on deep throws. He’s looked great the last two weeks and has limited the turnovers. But the turnovers definitely are a cause for concern. It’s not necessarily the interceptions, those will always happen with young quarterbacks.
Dating back to his college days, he had a knack for fumbling the football. It’s translated over to the NFL, as he had six in 12 games last year and has two through six games this year. Put all that aside, though, and we absolutely have our franchise guy.
He’s way more in control than Vince Young and Jake Locker ever showed, and can win much more easily from the pocket. We’re ecstatic to have him as our guy.
3. Right now, the Titans rank 9th in defensive efficiency and 10th on offense per Football Outsiders. What are the key factors in the turnaround of these two units?
On defense, the main factor is Dick LeBeau calling great games. He’s dialing up blitzes and disguising coverages well. Doing so has masked some of the talent deficiencies on our defense. We do have some legitimate talent on defense like Jurrell Casey, Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan, and Jason McCourty, but the other pieces were expected to get exposed often. They haven’t yet in a big way due to solid defensive play calling.
On offense, the coaching staff has gone away from the way-too-complex exotic plays that were crippling our offense through the first four weeks. Receivers weren’t being schemed open and Mariota was forcing throws. The run game was rolling, though, and that has continued through the next two weeks. They’re setting up defenses by creating one-on-one option plays that single out defensive players and make life easier for Mariota and everyone on offense.
4. What needs to happen on Sunday for the Titans to come away with a win? Is there a player that needs to step up or an area where Tennessee needs to exploit for victory?
I really think it’s just going to come down to the offense playing the way they have the last two weeks. More important is the run game. The Colts haven’t been able to stop many rushers on the ground, and no team has been able to stop the Titans run game.
If the run game can dominate, we’ll be able to control the game and the clock and come out with the victory. The defense, of course, will have to step up, but the Colts offense isn’t at its peak with Donte Moncrief and Dwayne Allen injured.
5. What is your prediction for Sunday? Who wins and why?
I think the Titans get their third straight win 24-20.