It's hard during the holiday season to get our schedules together enough to do the podcast. Here are my observations from the Titans game.
1. 3-14-TEN 48 (10:10) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass incomplete short left to 31-D.Brown
The Colts opening drive ended in a punt, and this was exactly the kind of play that I wanted to see from Peyton. Indy went empty backfield with Don Brown split wide left. Wayne stops short as an outlet receiver, and Brown runs for the sticks. Coverage is tight and rather than drop a pass over the top and risk a safety coming down or trying to thread the needle along the sideline and risk the corner undercutting it, Manning throws the ball low and away. He had plenty of time to throw, but the play just wasn't there, so he threw a safe low percentage pass. The result was an incompletion and a punt. IT WAS NOT AN INTERCEPTION. I felt it was a good start, and a sign Peyton was going to be more under control.
2. 3-5-TEN 12 (8:14) (Shotgun) 5-K.Collins pass incomplete short right to 18-K.BrittThe Colts get good push up the middle on the Titans first possession. The result is that Collins can't really step into his throw and tosses high and wide to Britt who is standing a yard or so short of the first down. Collins doesn't deal well with pressure in his face and threw inaccurately.
3. 3-2-IND 40 (6:51) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass short right to 15-B.White to 50 for 10 yards (20-A.Verner)The Colts first scoring drive was set up by a huge early conversion to White. Indy went three wide with White in the slot right. Manning had a good pocket (a theme of the night), and White ran a nice route for an easy pickup. If Blair White is going to stick long term in the NFL, this kind of play will be his bread and butter.
4. 2-1-IND 39 (15:00) (Shotgun) 5-K.Collins pass short left to 18-K.Britt to IND 41 for -2 yards (93-D.Freeney). FUMBLES (93-D.Freeney), RECOVERED by IND-56-T.Hagler at IND 41. 56-T.Hagler ran ob at IND 41 for no gain.How many amazing plays has Dwight Freeney made this season? Tryon makes an intial tackle on a quick toss to Britt. He knocks Britt backward, but can't wrap him up. As soon as the ball is released, Freeney breaks pursuit of Collins, and spins, heading out to the left sideline. Britt manages to elude Tryon, but has been slowed up and set back several yards. Mookie Johnson quickly hits him, and Freeney knifes in from behind to poke the ball free. Tyjuan Hagler falls on it for the only real turnover of the day for the Colts defense. Excellent hustle by Freeney and Johnson to come over to help on a pass play to the sideline.
5. 3-14-IND 37 (14:05) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass deep left to 87-R.Wayne to TEN 13 for 50 yards (31-C.Finnegan).We've seen too little of this since Clark and Addai went out. The Colts line up 3 wide with White in the slot left. White runs the mirror route to Wayne's designed to hold the safety. Wayne gets true one on one coverage with Finnegan and beats him silly. Manning lays the ball in on his hands to set the Colts up for a 14-0 lead. Manning was clapping enthusiastically after the play.
6. 3-7-TEN 32 (7:27) (Shotgun) 5-K.Collins pass incomplete short middle to 18-K.Britt (20-J.Tryon).The Colts go with a BIG blitz, brining 8. No one but Freeney manages to get to Collins. The tight end is briefly open, but Freeney arrives just in time to force Collins to throw up a jump ball for Britt. Tryon arrives early and appears to interfere with Britt, but there's no flag and the ball falls incomplete
7. 3-5-IND 44 (2:48) (Shotgun) 5-K.Collins pass incomplete short right to 85-N.Washington [93-D.Freeney].This time the Colts fake the blitz. Freeney manages to get a hit on Collins just as he releases the ball. Washington is open on the right side, but the ball slides through his hands just as Francisco arrives late.
8. 4-5-IND 44 (2:42) (Punt formation) 6-B.Kern Aborted. 58-K.Amato FUMBLES at TEN 41, touched at TEN 31, RECOVERED by IND-10-T.Smith at TEN 19. 10-T.Smith to TEN 19 for no gain (45-A.Hall).The dropped pass sets the Titans up with a punt, but the snap sails over the head of the of the Titans punter. Taj Smith is johnny on the spot to fall on the ball all the way down at the Titans' 19. This is an unforced error, and an example of how luck matters in football.
9. 2-10-TEN 19 (2:30) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass deep right to 85-P.Garcon for 19 yards, TOUCHDOWNManning makes the Titans pay and puts Indy up 21-0. The Colts run the same play as the final pick in the New England game. Garcon is wide right, with Tamme as the tight end. Manning runs a play action fake while Garcon goes right past his defender. McCourty fails to get a jam on Garcon, and then flashes down to cover Tamme, basically because he's already beaten. Garcon is wide open in the end zone.
10. 2-10-IND 30 (1:45) (Shotgun) 5-K.Collins pass short left to 28-C.Johnson pushed ob at IND 5 for 25 yards (20-J.Tryon).The Colts run a stunt, and while there is some pressure, the middle is open and Collins has room to step up and throw. He finds Chris Johnson in the flat who just jukes around Tryon. Tryon is forced to chase Johnson all the way down to the five, but manages to save the touchdown. Both Colts corners had trouble tackling in 1 on 1 situations.
11. (12:36) (Shotgun) 5-K.Collins pass short right to 18-K.Britt to IND 8 for 18 yards (43-A.Francisco, 58-G.Brackett).The Titans jump back in the game with a touchdown set up by this key third down conversion. The Colts only rush 3, dropping 8 men into coverage, but Cornelious Brown slips on the play. This leaves Collins with a huge window in the zone to hit Britt. If Brown remains upright, Collins' throw is much more difficult as he would have had to drop the ball over Brown into Britt. As it was, it became 11 on 10 and an easy first down.
12. 1-10-IND 46 (9:43) (No Huddle, Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass deep left to 87-R.Wayne to TEN 8 for 46 yards (31-C.Finnegan).After the Titans cut through the Colts to close the score to 21-14, Indy had to respond. Manning puts the Colts into field goal range by throwing a pristine pass to Wayne, who is covered closely by Finnegan. Manning again runs the play action fake, and looks long to Wayne. He has plenty of time to throw and lays the ball just past Finnegan's hands and onto Wayne's fingers. This was one of the best throws of the year for Manning. Indy would have had a touchdown on this drive, but for the excellent defense by Blair White in the endzone. The field goal made the score 24-14
13. 4-4-TEN 36 (1:34) (Shotgun) 42-J.James up the middle to TEN 25 for 11 yards (20-A.Verner, 33-M.Griffin).First of all, let's be clear that going for it on fourth down is NOT a gamble. The Colts were in no man's land, and ran the draw that failed against Dallas the week before. This time, however, it works. The Colts go three wide and run a delayed draw to James. Linkenbach, in for Charlie Johnson, does an outstanding job of helping Kyle DeVan to open a mammoth hole for James to run through. The Titans weren't looking for the run, and the left side of the line blocked the play to perfection. All James had to do was run to daylight. This set the Colts up for a field goal to 27-14.
14. 3-4-IND 12 (9:23) (Shotgun) 21-J.Ringer up the middle to IND 3 for 9 yards (43-A.Francisco).Coyer calls for a blitz, and the Titans counter with a draw. Foster pushes wide leaving a gaping hole on the right side of the line. Hagler blitzes and can't shed his block in time. Gary Brackett fakes a blitz, but is trying to pull back into coverage, but the center fires out and blocks him. Ringer runs straight through the hole created by Foster's pass rush and the block by the center. Easy first down. The Titans then cut the lead to 27-21 just a few plays later.
15. 3-1-IND 30 (6:48) (No Huddle) 31-D.Brown up the middle to IND 30 for no gain (24-C.Hope).On one hand, the blocking has to be better on this play as Hope is unblocked, hitting Brown at the line. On the other hand, you would certainly hope that Don Brown could beat a DB one on one to gain one yard. He does not and is stopped for no gain.
16. 3-5-TEN 30 (4:57) (Shotgun) 28-C.Johnson up the middle to TEN 34 for 4 yards (56-T.Hagler, 41-A.Bethea).The biggest question with this play (DVR ran out...sorry) is why Fisher punted the ball away on fourth and one. I would have SKEWERED Caldwell for the same stunt. Why should coaches' "trust their defense if their defense is not trustworthy?
17. 2-10-IND 25 (3:37) (No Huddle) 18-P.Manning pass short right to 85-P.Garcon pushed ob at TEN 32 for 43 yards (30-J.McCourty).The play of the night. Manning hits Garcon on a slant, but throw is a little high and late. Garcon makes an incredible snatch of the ball and is met by three defenders. He manages to break three different tackles before looping around to turn the corner on the Titans. With Tennessee trying to get the ball back, Garcon's incredible display of strength, speed and hustle changed field position and gave the Colts the field position necessary to turn a 6 point game into a 9 point game.
18 1-8-IND 8 (:27) (Shotgun) 5-K.Collins pass short right to 12-J.Gage to IND 2 for 6 yards (39-C.Brown).
At this point, the Titans should be kicking a field goal. Instead, Collins throws a pointless six yard pass down to the two, but exhausts almost all the remaining clock in the process. They scored a cosmetic touchdown on the final play, but the end of game strategy was woeful.
I had made a comment about Lacey in run support which was challenged by a reader who noted that Lacey was credited with a team high 8 tackles, 5 in the run game. After watching the tape, it was clear that two of those tackles were 'gang' tackles in which Lacey was the last man in and not really important in making the play. He did have a beautiful tackle on a screen. He also had a terrible run tackle where he hit Johnson for a one yard gain, but Johnson wriggled free for four extra yards before falling down. Finally, he had two completely blown open field tackles. For the game, Lacey had three legit run tackles, one of which was on a 20 yard gain.