What We Saw: Indianapolis Colts 30, Tennessee Titans 27

image via NFL.com

The Colts once again fell behind and looked dead at halftime, but this time they were able to pull the plane out of the tailspin in time to win.

There were some questionable choices by the Colts coaching staff, but Andrew Luck, after a rough first half, led them to a victory.

The Tennessee Titans just couldn’t close the deal and while they made it close, didn’t hold the lead and didn’t have enough time to score what they needed.

This loss probably killed their playoff chances—at the very least it put the chances at death’s door.

What did we learn about the two teams in question Thursday night?

  • The Tennessee Titans got away from their gameplan at halftime. While it’s evident that Indianpolis dud make some adjustments, the Titans just stopped trying to move the ball on the ground. In the first half, Chris Johnson ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Meanwhile, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw the ball just 12 times. In the second half, Johnson ran the ball just four times for six yards while Fitzpatrick threw the ball 16 times. That’s backwards. When you have an explosive offense like the Colts on the ropes, you drain the clock. The Titans didn’t do that and paid for it with a loss.
  • Trent Richardson continues to be awful and continues to draw carries. Aside from taking carries away from Donald Brown, who does more with them, Richardson is getting targets in the pass game and led the team in targets, catches and yards in the first half. What’s weird is, Richardson was catching the ball well and then the Colts decided to get away from it completely. After five catches on five targets, he never saw another target. He did get seven more carries, while Brown got 10 more. With a 5.7 yards per carry average, you’d think Brown would get more focus, but he doesn’t. First round pick or not, expensive acquisition or not, it’s time to bench Richardson.
  • Andrew Luck is a lot of fun to watch. He does have moments where you are reminded that he is still just in his second year of NFL play, but you also see a player who is cool in the pocket and very, very good. Luck will continue to always give the Colts a chance to win, whether or not they deserve it. That’s what makes a franchise quarterback and tonight we were reminded how good of one he is.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

3 Questions about: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans

image via NFL.com

Both of these teams are going to want to load up on the mouthwash to get rid of the bitter aftertaste of last Sunday’s losses.

The Colts didn’t expect to get manhandled by the St. Louis Rams for sure. And one can imagine when the Titans woke up Sunday morning, a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars wasn’t on their to-do list.

Yet here they are, hoping to get right on Thursday night.

Both teams are still in the playoff hunt and both had a rough Week 10.

Here are three things to watch for tonight’s game.

image via StampedeBlue.com

  • The Colts’ defense was beat up by Kellen Clemens and Tavon Austin last week—two guys who haven’t really given teams the willies when lining up across from them. Not only did they allow Austin 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just  three targets, they had just two sacks and two quarterback hits. The Colts defense isn’t as bad against the pass as the No. 19 ranking indicates. They’ve accrued 24 sacks and eight interceptions so far. It’s a good run defense (No. 7 overall). They seem to be able to hold the bad teams down but the good teams kill them. How will they do against a middle-of-the-road team?

image via FantasyBuzzer.com

  • We continue to watch the emergence of Kendall Wright with great interest. If you haven’t heard—and unless you’re a Tennessee Titans fan or writer, you probably haven’t—Wright has been very consistent no matter who his quarterback is and unlike Richardson, is becoming a player worthy of his selection spot (20th overall in 2012). He can gain separation, is dangerous after the catch and willing to go across the middle. The offense around him isn’t all that great, and Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm doesn’t spell great things for it, but Wright is becoming a bright spot in a somewhat disappointing season. Can he keep it up against a decent Colts defense?

image via Washington Post

  • Andrew Luck has been a bit up and down this season—providing great moments such as when he outplayed Peyton Manning in Week 7 as well as brutal moments, such as the three interceptions he tossed last week against St. Louis. It almost seems as if he is following a two-good-one-bad pattern right now. He just finished the cycle with a poor outing last week after two solid games prior to that. Will he bounce back with a good game against a Titans defense ranked eight in the NFL against the pass with more interceptions generated (8) than touchdowns allowed (7) and which has totaled 25 sacks so far this year?

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

NFL Week 9: What We Learned

It’s all downhill from here.

We’ve moved past the halfway point for the 2013 NFL season and there’s a lot of information to sift through.

One thing is certain: we don’t know as much as we know.

What do I know?

  • It’s going to be a dogfight for the AFC wild cards. Assuming the Bengals, Colts and Patriots hold their divisions and assuming that neither Kansas City no Denver collapses, you’ve got five of six spots pretty well secured. Leaving one spot for the Jets, Dolphins, Browns, Titans and Chargers to go after. The Jets have to cushiest schedule but are the most inconsistent. But anything can happen, so hang on.
  • Given the injuries the Packers and Bears are dealing with, the Lions are the favorite for the NFC North title. It’s going to come down to consistency and getting out of their own may. The Lions have not been penalized as much as they have in years past—57 flags through eight games at a rate of 7 per game puts them just in the top ten for most penalized—and they have to continue to improve if they want to lock this down. They have a chance to beat the Bears and Packers for the title if they play smart football over the second half of the season.
  • Adults can be bullied. As much as we don’t want to believe it (or some don’t), it happens. We shouldn’t be blaming the victim—it’s a bad look.
  • Speaking of Miami specifically, what a disaster. Even taking away the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito mess, this team has looked a bit rudderless. They have a solid running back in Lamar Miller who they have only just started giving more than a dozen carries and still won’t give him a full load—despite a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. The offensive line was a disaster before they lost two of their starters and their big money receiver—Mike Wallace—has been completely ineffective.  If they were winning, the other stuff would seem trivial. Now? It looks symptomatic.
  • The chickens could be coming home to roost in Green Bay. For a long time there have been concerns—primarily among national media but occasionally among fans—that having unproven or just flat out bad backups behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a bad idea. The Packers were willing to gamble since Rodgers is one of the tougher guys out there, but now that he’s out with a fractured collarbone, and now that we’ve seen Seneca Wallace play, it has to be a concern. As we’ve discussed when Jay Cutler and other quarterbacks have gone out with injury the pickings are slim in free agency and the trade deadlines are past. We expect GM Ted Thompson to pull some magic out of his bag of tricks, but while the rest of the team seems to be fine with “next-man-up” talent, quarterback is too important a position. If the team collapses it will highlight one of the rare times when Thompson has failed to find talent to develop.
  • Coaching is rough. Media and fans both get on coaches about failings on the field but few people realize how much of a grind the job is. Denver’s John Fox and Houston’s Gary Kubiak both ending up in the hospital in one weekend is a reminder, as was the sad situation with Andy Reid’s son not long ago. Ultimately, criticism comes with the job, but it’s important to remember how much these guys put into their jobs and the toll it takes on them and their family.
  • I don’t know what to make of the Bengals, Jets or Browns. I’m having a hard time buying the Chiefs.  The Panthers are proving to be the contender I thought they might be in preseason.
  • Andrew Luck is a damned fine quarterback. Eddie Lacy should have been the first running back in the 2013 NFL draft. The rookie quarterbacks this year are just as inconsistent and raw as I expected them to be.
  • Everyone says “Wait until Seattle is on the road, then we’ll see how bad they are” but they’re 47-1 on the road. So what are we waiting for?
  • Even the Jacksonville Jaguars look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and say “Oh man, that’s bad.”
  • The last few years have seen some great quarterback classes and all indications are that 2014 will have another stellar crop. This year seems to be the year of the running back though. Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard and Zac Stacy are all performing well—Lacy and Stacy especially the last two games, though I suspect if the Bengals gave Bernard 20 carries, he’d be right there with them. That said, it’s going to be the rare back worth a first round pick—with Trent Richardson and David Wilson’s struggles, it doesn’t seem to be worth the risk to grab a back in the first round. Bernard and Lacy were second round picks, Stacy was grabbed in the fifth. Add in Andre Ellington, who is going to have a strong second half of the season and was a sixth round pick and, if you have a good scouting department, you can grab value anywhere.

That’s all for this week. I’ll be back later in the week to highlight the Thursday night matchup as well as break some plays down with the All-22 coach’s tape.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.