I give the Titans an “E'' for effort. At least in the first half.
I give them an “F'' for failure to win what was their most important game of the season.
If they had knocked off the Colts, the Titans would have been one game out of first place in the AFC South and solidly in the hunt for a wild card berth.
You can forget that, after the Colts did what they had to do, coming back from 17-3 deficit in the second quarter to clip the Titans, 30-27.
The Colts came out kicking to start the second half. Quarterback Andrew Luck led them on a 74-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter. It took the Colts 11 plays, capped by Donald Brown's seven-yard run.
Then the bottom dropped out for the Titans. Recently acquired return specialist Devon Wylie took the ensuing kickoff, was hit and fumbled. Daniel Herron recovered for the Colts. Two plays later, Luck ran a keeper in from 11 yards out and they took their first lead of the game at 20-17.
“That's when it went down hill,'' Titans Coach Mike Munchak said.
The Titans were toast. Their offense left the defense out on the field way too long in the second half and the Colts eventually wore them down and out.
Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said it felt like an eternity having to sit on the sidelines for such a long time in the third quarter and being helpless to do anything about it.
“I don't know how much time it was in real time, but that was a long stretch,'' Fitzpatrick said. “We had limited opportunities in the second half.''
In the third quarter the Titans managed a whopping 11 yards while the Colts were hammering out 120 yards and 17 points. The Titans gained seven yards on the ground, four yards on a pass.
It was 23-17 going into the fourth quarter and the Titans drew within 23-20 late in the game, but failed to recover an onside kick and dropped to 4-6 on the season, having now lost five of their last six games.
“Up to this point we done enough talking. Talking is just getting old. We got to go out there and make plays for 60 minutes. … We got to go out there and win if we want to make it to the playoffs,'' said Titans running back Chris Johnson, who finished with 86 yards in 17 carries and two touchdowns.
He had 80 yards in the first half, but the Colts stopped him cold in the second half.
“The last two games have been very tough for us – division opponents, games that we really thought we should have won but didn't. So we've got to find that winning formula, whatever it is. … It's a tough locker room in there right now because that's two in a row that kind of slipped away from us. Two big ones. Two costly ones for us,'' Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick ended up with good numbers, but stayed with short routes for the most part. He was 22 of 28 for 222 yards and one TD. His quarterback rating was 111.6 while Luck's was 82.2. But Luck got what he came for, a much-needed win that stretched their division lead out. He is now 8-0 in games following losses.
Munchak knows this was a must win game for his team. The fans are losing confidence in him being a head coach that can make the moves necessary to put a winning product on the field.
He also knows his future is on the line in the next six games if he doesn't turn this team around.
“It's going to be hard. It's upsetting,'' Munchak said after the game. “We got six more games to play. We can win them all and be in a solid position.''
Win them all? Highly doubtful when you lose to a then-winless Jaguars team and a Colts team coming off a 38-8 loss to St. Louis. Both of them found refuge at LP Field. There is no home field advantage on the banks of the Cumberland River. That's ancient history.
This team has holes that must be corrected. Special team play has been atrocious. Penalties still happening this deep in the season are game changers.
There are numerous questions in Titans Town but sadly, not enough answers.
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.