Scouting review: How Titans took advantage of susceptible Colts

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Penalties were the name of the game in Indianapolis. Awful officiating dictated the pace and play of the game and that should never happen in the NFL.

Ultimately the Titans won in overtime, 34-31.

Carson Wentz played a solid game until around 1:33 left in the fourth quarter when he threw that awful interception to Elijah Molden to give the Titans a lead.

Elijah Molden

© Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Backed up on the goal line, the Colts wanted to run a screen pass, but Nyheim Hines quit on the screen play designed to go to Moe Alie-Cox, turning toward the back judge and his back to the quarterback looking for a pass interference call while his QB was looking to pass it to him to get rid of the ball.

Both are at fault. Hines must finish the play before complaining to the officials. Wentz must get rid of the ball without panicking.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.  – Derrick Henry scoffed at the weekly workload questions and Mike Vrabel has generally talked about using his best players as warranted.

While I thought things were getting to be a little much this season with the running back’s carries, I was OK with their lines of thinking.

Derrick Henry

Derrick Henry/ pool photo, Donald Page, Tennessee Titans

Worry about now, now, and later, later.

But like most, I envisioned Henry’s inevitable injury or breakdown as part of later.

Instead, it’s here now.

He’ll have surgery to repair a right foot injury on Tuesday, Mike Vrabel said. Vrabel declined to get into any timetable but reports and medical people are suggesting a best-case scenario is eight weeks. [Unlocked]

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Crown them: It'll take a disaster for Titans not to win AFC South now

INDIANAPOLIS – When Mike Vrabel talks with contempt about front-runners, he’s aiming at people who can only handle being in prime position, who don’t handle adversity well, who can’t or won’t battle.

His team fought hard for him, again, Sunday producing an improbable 34-31 overtime win over Indianapolis that produced an even more improbable AFC South lead.

Vrabel now leads a team full of frontrunners of another, more likable sort.

Bud Dupree and Denico Autry

© Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Eight games into the 2021 season, the 6-2 Titans are three games ahead of the Colts. With the tiebreaker that comes with a season sweep of the series, it’s effectively a four-game lead.

“That was playoff football,” Colts’ corner Kenny Moore said. “That’s the type of environment that we all strive to play for, play into. We knew what was at stake. We knew the AFC South – that was the game and we lost.”

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Scouting preview: Titans' pass rush should keep it going in Indy

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Colts are a different team than they were in Week Three.

They will be amped up and will treat this game like a playoff game to win the division.

A win will pull them to one game back and a split of the series.

Kevin Byard

Kevin Byard/ pool photo, Donald Page, Tennessee Titans

Indianapolis quarterback Carson Wentz is finally healthy and left guard Quenton Nelson, first-round defensive end Kwity Paye and their best cornerback Xavier Rhodes are playing.

The Colts have utilized their best strength on offense with a running game that ranks ninth in the NFL and has multiple options to carry the ball.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans’ depth at receiver was a nice training-camp story.

With A.J. Brown and Julio Jones missing the bulk of work with injuries, Ryan Tannehill had to throw to alternate targets. And Marcus Johnson, Chester Rogers and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine made progress and made plays.

A.J. Brown

Courtesy Tennessee Titans

But as the season has played out, it’s reminded us that they are supplementary players, nice in smaller roles but not players who offer the Titans the qualities of the guys ahead of them when they are missing.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Colts the Titans will find waiting for them in Indianapolis are a far different team than the one the Titans beat at Nissan Stadium on Sept. 26.

The rematch has huge stakes.

A win and Tennessee would effectively have a four-game lead on Indianapolis in the standings – a record that’s three games better plus a head-to-head sweep that would lift them in a tie-breaker.

Bud Dupree (R) and Jeffery Simmons

Pool photo/ Donald Page, Tennessee Titans 

A loss and it would only be a one-game lead with a season split.

Here are three big factors looking toward Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium:

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans are not fully transformed, but at 5-2 coming off wins over Buffalo and Kansas City they sure are looking good.

And the pass rush was a big factor in the two big wins over prime AFC competition.

Denico Autry and Jeffery Simmons

Photo courtesy Tennessee Titans 

A year removed from a pitiful 19-sack performance, the Titans are re-energized chasing the quarterback, with 17 sacks in just seven games. And it's not just the sacks, it's more consistent pressure that affects quarterbacks.

Let’s look at the main ingredients in the turnaround.

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