Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy believes playing well in December is the key to winning a championship. In that case, the Colts and Tennessee Titans need to rebound quickly.
The Colts and Titans, tied atop the AFC South and both coming off losses, look to gain an edge in the division and stay in the race for the conference’s No. 2 seed when they meet at The Coliseum.
The winner would gain a one-game lead with three games remaining. Indianapolis’ division title hopes took a hit when they could not score from the 1-yard line in the closing seconds of Sunday’s 38-34 loss to the New England Patriots.
“December is the month where championships are won,” said Dungy, whose Colts can gain the tiebreaker with a season sweep of the Titans. “Whoever gets hot, we’ll be talking about in January. A team that gets hot in December will be the one you want your money on in the playoffs.”
Beating the Colts would go a long way for the Titans as they try to win their second straight division title. Tennessee is also looking to extend a 10-game home winning streak.
The Titans had a six-game overall winning streak end Monday with a 24-17 loss on the road to the New York Jets. New England (10-2), which handed the Tennessee its previous loss on Oct. 5, now has the edge for the AFC’s No. 2 seed.
“It falls right back in our lap again,” Titans running back Eddie George said. ”(The loss) is something to be discouraged about. But the future, next week, we can control that, and that is what the beauty of it is.”
“Every game we’ve lost has been to a good quarterback,” cornerback Samari Rolle said. “When we play marquee guys, we just don’t get it done.”
Each of the Titans’ three losses have come against top quarterbacks: A 33-7 loss on Sept. 14 to the Colts—featuring Manning. The 38-30 loss on Oct. 5— against New England and Tom Brady. Monday night’s game against Jets—and Pennington.
The Titans, however, didn’t have cornerback Andre Dyson (ankle) for most of the game in New York, as Pennington earned a passer rating of 101.3. His status for this game is uncertain.
Indianapolis is dealing with its own injury problems.
With tight end Dallas Clark likely to miss the rest of the season because of a broken right leg, Dungy said the Colts will continue to run their regular offensive packages but acknowledged there will be some adjustments.
Marcus Pollard and Joe Dean Davenport are the only tight ends on the Colts roster. Pollard was chosen as a Pro Bowl alternate in 2001, primarily because of his receiving skills. Davenport is a better blocker but has just 11 receptions for 103 yards in three NFL seasons.
“We’ve definitely got to make some changes, but we can adapt,” Pollard said. “Dallas will definitely be missed.”
The Colts have played six of their last seven games without starting left tackle Tarik Glenn because of two left knee injuries, and starting right tackle Ryan Diem played Sunday after missing practice late last week because of a staph infection in his leg.
Rookie guard Steve Sciullo, who battled a shoulder injury last week, injured his neck Sunday and left during the third quarter. His status is uncertain.
The Colts did show some promise on defense against New England, picking off two passes and forcing a fumble. It was the first time they forced that many turnovers in a game since Sept. 28, when they had four takeaways against New Orleans.
The three turnovers matched the Colts totals from the previous three weeks and their two interceptions were the most they’d had in a game since the Saints game.