INDIANAPOLIS _ A week after creating buzz with a stunning upset of New England, the Tennessee Titans crashed with a decided thud in a 38-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts here at their pit of misery known as Lucas Oil Stadium.
In addition to losing for the 10th time in as many tries to their personal kryptonite, Andrew Luck, the Titans also lost quarterback Marcus Mariota, who re-injured his throwing elbow in the second quarter, and played the game without defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who had to leave the game early on due to a medical situation that landed him in an Indianapolis hospital.
Along with those two unfortunate events, the Titans were dreadful from start to finish, as they never put any pressure on Luck, and their old nemesis easily picked them apart, going 23 of 29 for 297 yards and three touchdowns.
“I can’t really elaborate on what happened other than we got our butts whooped today,” linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “I’ve got to watch the film to see exactly what happened, but it just wasn’t a complete game in any of the three phases. We’ve got to do better than that.”
The victory was the fourth in a row for the Colts, who pulled even with the Titans at 5-5 for second place in the AFC South, behind the Houston Texans, who topped the Washington Redskins Sunday for their seventh straight victory.
As for the Titans, who had staked their claim as a contender with a strong red zone defense and an improving offense led by Mariota, both those things wilted early on in Sunday’s embarrassing loss.
After forcing a punt on Indy’s first possession, Luck kicked things into gear and continued his mastery of the Titans after sitting out last year due to a shoulder injury.
He directed four first-half scoring drives, and the Colts were in command, up 24-0, before halftime. Only a Ryan Succop 42 yard field goal at the end of the half, which came shortly after Mariota exited, kept the Titans from being shut out in the first half.
Regarding Mariota’s injury, Titans coach Vrabel sounded as if it was not worth risk of putting his quarterback back in harm’s way at less than 100 percent. The injury was described as an elbow injury, which is what kept Mariota out for a game and a half and hampered his throwing for several weeks
“I asked him how he was on the field, and he said he would be OK. We made the decision to go with Blaine (Gabbert),” Vrabel said.
Nevertheless, the game was pretty much already settled by that point. The second half was a continuation of the first two quarters, until the Colts finally called off the dogs, pulling Luck with approximately seven minutes left to play.
For the time he was in the game, Luck, who missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury, looked like vintage Luck from his prior dominance of the Titans. And he had at least one of the same weapons, as T.Y. Hilton scorched the Tennessee defense and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson for nine catches on nine targets for 155 yards and two scores.
“(Expletive), he was on fire. Hell, yeah, that’s as bad as it’s gonna get. You give that up, you’re gonna feel bad,” said Jackson who drew praise for his slowing of Josh Gordon last week. “I don’t even care if we won, you give up 155 and two touches (touchdowns), that’s still terrible. I have to go back to the film and see how they schemed us up and see what I can do better.”
Vrabel said the Titans, who now face the Houston Texans in a Monday night matchup next week, must regroup after Sunday’s crash and burn if they are to entertain hopes of winning the AFC South.
“Whether you lose in the last second of the game, like in Buffalo, or you don’t play or coach well today, the message is that it’s a loss. They all hurt. They all count the same,” Vrabel said. “Whether we handle success or failure, I think that we’re 5-5. We do some things well or we don’t do some things well, in all three phases. My hope is that this team sticks together, and I can lead them in a direction that will allow us to improve, be critical of ourselves, take care of our teammates, get healthy, look at Houston and try to go and prepare to win a game. Whether it’s success or failure, we’ve got to make the corrections on this and move on.”