The theme of my review of the Titans offensive performance was missed opportunities, and that theme applies even more so to my look at the defensive performance. In fact, the theme of this year's defense is rife with misses: missed tackles, missed assignments, and missed opportunities. There is a lot of talent on this year's defense but good defenses finish games. The Titans defense didn't finish against the Colts.
I know this defense is tired and the players have played a lot of snaps. The bye week comes later this year than it has in the past, and there are two more games to play. The Titans host the Bears on Sunday and then travel to Miami the following week to play the Miami Dolphins. The one loss Bears come to town with a lot of offensive talent. Only ranked 31st in the league in total offense, they rank well ahead of the Titans in scoring at 10. The Titans rank 18.
So what happened with the Titans defense against the Colts? The blown call by the officials on the Allen fumble? Was the defense tired? Did the Titans play soft? Did the players miss tackles? Is this defense tired? Do we substitute with bad timing? Why was Ryan Mouton on Reggie Wayne to begin with? Is Colin McCarthy playing at 100%? Did we sacrifice plays trying to get pressure on Andrew Luck? See where I am going here? Let's take a look.
You can't talk about the defensive effort without giving a ton of credit to the Colts, their coaching staff and their entire organization for what the Colts are doing this year. In a supposed "rebuilding" year the Colts, led by excellent rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, are rolling and currently ranked second in the AFC South. Give Indy a ton of credit they are well coached and they played well and made the plays they needed to win.
In particular, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and DWayne Allen had just excellent receptions against a very good Titans coverage. In fact, for the most part the defensive backs played a good game. Regarding the Wayne catch, Jordan Babineaux had good coverage Wayne just made a great play.
Moreover, the Titans were getting very good pressure on Luck on that play and in fact got good pressure on the rookie the entire game. He just made plays.
Additionally, although we were playing soft coverage, Jason McCourty had good coverage on this pass to T.Y. Hilton, who just got a great throw from his quarterback and who made an outstanding play.
Finally, you absolutely cannot fault Zach Brown on this throw to DWayne Allen. The rookie had excellent coverage it is just a great play.
There has been a lot of chatter about how badly the Titans defense played against the Colts, and I am here to tell you that the defense did a lot of good things in this game. In fact, I think you can say the Titans played pretty good defense until the 4th quarter. I am going to do a drive by drive analysis of the two drives that hurt the most: the 4th quarter touchdown drive and the overtime touchdown drive in a separate post, but before I end this one I want to touch on a few things.
First, free safety Michael Griffin has taken a lot of heat from fans over both his contract and his play and it was nice to see him have a great game. In fact, Griffin had his best game of the season by far. I am hardly shocked Griffin finally got another blocked kick he has done it before for the Titans. In fact, Griffin was one of the best special teams players in college history while playing at Texas, set a Big 12 Conference record and ranked 2nd in NCAA Div 1-A history with 8 blocked punts. Since being drafted in 2007, Griffin has been one of the Titans best special teams players.
Not only did Griffin block that field goal, forced Andrew Luck to fumble in the first quarter but the ball goes out of bounds. He also intercepted a Luck pass in the endzone and prevented a scoring drive. Criticized int the past for his tackling, I didn't see him miss one tackle and he ended the game with 8 tackles, 6 solo with 1 pass defended. One of the most durable Titans I can remember in recent history, he played 76 of 77 snaps against the Colts.
Second, our defensive lineman really played a heck of a game and when you watch how the Colts approached their blocking, particularly on run plays, you see the attention they command.
I really thought the Colts did an excellent job recognizing what the Titans had on the field and doing what they needed to do to make plays. Sen'Derrick Marks played 51 of 77 snaps and had 2 QB hits in addition to 2 tackles. The Colts really keyed in on Jurrell Casey who played 59 of 77 snaps and who only registered 1 tackle. Despite that, he drew attention and the defensive ends were able to be very active. Kam Wimbley and Derrick Morgan split a sack of Andrew Luck, and I thought Wimbley had one of his best games as a Titan. He only registered 3 tackles in addition to the 1/2 sack, but he had a QB hit and 6 QB hurries. Wimbley played 67 of 77 snaps.Morgan forced a fumble, had 2 QB hits and 7 QB hurries. He also batted down a pass. Morgan played 64 of 77 snaps.
Speaking of pressure, the Titans blitzed a lot this game and for the first time I thought we used Akeem Ayers the way he should be used. Ayers had 7 tackles, 3 solo, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit, 2 QB hurries and 1 batted pass. He is also tackling a lot better.
One final thing I want to mention is that Alterraun Verner doesn't get enough credit for how well he plays. Verner had 9 tackles, 7 solo, and 3 tackles for a loss. He is equally good in run and pass defense and incredibly durable. He played 75 of 77 snaps. He also recovered the "fumble that never was."
Now let's turn our attention to some bad things that I saw. First, no less than 3 Titans slipped on the field on Sunday. This isn't the first time I thought equipment was an issue although admittedly the first time this year. I didn't see single Colt slip. You can't defend if you can't keep your footing.
Second, the Titans were penalized at inopportune times and the worst one negated a fumble recovery. The Titans were penalized 8 times for 65 yards. I hate to pick on the rookie, Mike Martin, who has played so well this year but lining up in the neutral zone is just a penalty I hate to see and this one was a killer.
Third, missed tackles continue to be a problem although less than most games. Some of the longer Colts run plays turned on a simple missed tackle at or just beyond the line of scrimmage.
Fourth, takeaway opportunities are rare and when you get the chance you really need to make the play. Both Jason McCourty and Colin McCarthy dropped interceptions. McCourty has 2 interceptions on the year, both in the last 2 games and they were a huge factor in winning those football games. Those missed opportunities could have been the difference in the game. I am a big fan of McCarthy but he is clearly slowed by that ankle injury and is not playing like he is capable of playing when he is healthy. Still, he is certainly our best option and you want to see him on the field.
In summary, clearly the Titans defense did some good things Sunday against the Colts, but unfortunately couldn't put the game away at the end. These guys may be tired, and understandably so, but they have two more games to go before the bye and these next two games will be a big test.