Thursday Night Football (TNF) featured two AFC South teams vying for position and a solid shot at the playoffs after the NFL’s regular season wraps up. The Tennessee Titans hosted the Indianapolis Colts and, ahead of the game, even oddsmakers were unclear on who might come out on top. When the game got underway, the Titans came out strong, but the Colts weren’t having it. They rebounded from a 17-13 halftime score to take complete control of the second half, and never looked back.
The Titans led the AFC South heading into the game, but the Colts were on a mission. They kept Tennessee out of the end zone for the entire second half as they cruised to a 34-17 victory. In doing so, they toppled the Titans and took over the division while, at the same time, picking up bragging rights for being able to go 3-0 against Tennessee in their last three games.
Colts running back Nyheim Hines deserves some of the credit for firing up his squad. He scored his second touchdown on the night when Indianapolis launched its offensive surprises in the third quarter, giving his teammates a shot of energy. That was compounded later when linebacker E.J. Speed blocked a punt that allowed cornerback T.J. Carrie to scoop up the ball and head into the end zone to add six to the Colts’ score and continue the team’s onslaught. That punt attempt was made by Trevor Daniel, making his debut with the Titans, and the decision to put him in the game proved costly.
The Colts defense, ranked first in terms of fewest yards allowed, continuously threatened Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, forcing him to throw one incomplete pass after another. He ended the night just 15 for 27 with 147 yards and only one touchdown, not being able to produce the results that had led the team to a 6-2 record. He also took a hit from Colts defensive end Denico Autry for a sack, adding to the difficult night Tannehill was having.
Adding to the growing list of issues, kicker Stephen Gostkowski is now finding himself in a precarious position, as he missed a 44-yard field goal that should have been easy. On the season, he has now missed a total of eight to lead the league and there’s still another half-a-season to go. The single-season missed field goal record is held by Tony Zendejas and the ten he flubbed in 1989 while playing for the then-Houston Oilers (ironically, the team now known as the Tennessee Titans).
The Colts offense was as hot as the defense. Quarterback Philip Rivers connected on 29 of his 39 pass attempts and racked up 308 yards, as well as a touchdown. Rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman, Jr. pulled down seven balls for 101 yards as one of Rivers’ go-to targets on the night, and receiver Jacoby Brissett added a score to give the Colts added bonus points. He only had one carry for two yards, but that was enough for another six points.
This was not how the state of Tennessee envisioned getting its sports gambling market off the ground. The state just launched sportsbooks at the beginning of the month and the local operators would have most likely preferred to see the home team win. However, they can’t be too disappointed, either. Across the first two games the Titans have played since sports gambling launched, the team hasn’t been able to cover the spread and most of the in-state money – 92% of it – was being put on Tennessee to win.
The two teams will meet again soon. They will face off for a match in Week 12, giving Tennessee a chance at reclaiming the division.
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