5 observations on Colts' win vs. Titans
Peyton Manning stopped turning the ball over and the Indianapolis Colts ended their three-game losing streak with a 30-28 win over the host Tennessee Titans on Thursday night.
Manning, who had thrown 11 interceptions in his previous three games, was brilliant against the Titans. He went 25-for-35 for 319 yards and two touchdown passes. More important, Manning threw no interceptions.
He also got some help from his receivers as Reggie Wayne had more than 100 yards and Pierre Garcon caught both touchdown passes — and his big 43-yard catch late in the fourth quarter led to the game-winning field goal.
Let’s go inside the game with my five observations.
1. Peyton Manning remembered he’s not Superman. That isn’t to say he isn’t tremendous, but his overcompensating for the myriad injuries the Colts have sustained on offense has contributed heavily to their three-game losing streak. On Thursday night, Manning made the checkdown throws when he had to, and made some absolutely gorgeous passes too. It helped that the Colts remembered they can run the ball. Donald Brown and Javarris James combined for 32 carries and 85 yards. Those numbers don’t mean much, but they gave Indianapolis the ability to effectively use play-action passes and keep a pass rush off Manning. Owning a five-minute time-of-possession advantage over a ball-control team such as the Titans is a feat that shouldn’t go unnoticed either.
2. The Titans were their own worst enemy. A third-down pass-interference call against safety Michael Griffin gave the Colts first-and-goal at the one, which led to a touchdown late in the first quarter. On the subsequent possession, wide receiver Kenny Britt fumbled in the second quarter, and the Colts turned that mistake into another touchdown — thanks in part to another third-down penalty that gave the Colts a first-and-goal from the two. A snap over punter Brett Kern’s head led to yet another Colts touchdown. Trailing 21-7 at halftime practically meant "game over" for the Titans.
3. Pierre Garcon played like he is finally 100 percent. The wide receiver showed he could be on the verge of becoming a big star during Indianapolis’ run to the Super Bowl last season. Earlier this season, he was slowed by a hamstring injury. But he followed up last week’s eight-catch performance against the Cowboys with six catches and 93 yards to go along with the two touchdown grabs. Indianapolis needed somebody besides Manning to show individual brilliance, and Garcon did that by breaking tackles on a short reception late in the fourth and turning it into a 43-yard gain.
4. Is Randy Moss done? He spent much of Thursday night’s loss on the sidelines, and this is with the Titans trailing most of the game and needing to throw. Apparently, he couldn’t even run a fly pattern to open up the underneath routes. He had zero catches and no impact on the field. Moss is on his third team this season and is still learning the playbook — but come on. His contributions to date: nine catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns with the Patriots, 13 receptions for 174 and two touchdowns with the Vikings and five catches for 62 yards with no touchdowns for the Titans. The 33-year-old had better pick it up if he wants to land a good contract next season.
5. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis must do more. Freeney did hustle to force Britt’s fumble in the second quarter, but he and fellow end Mathis did little in terms of putting pressure on Kerry Collins. Collins — who’s hardly fleet of foot — had plenty of time in the pocket to produce a decent game, although most of his completions were short passes. If the Colts are to run the table, their pass rush must generate more than the zero sacks it did Thursday night.