Another blowout loss has Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano searching for answers and owner Jim Irsay issuing a wake-up call.
The Tennessee Titans are hoping to add to those concerns while inching closer to securing their first playoff berth in five years.
The Colts will try to get back on track Sunday with their second victory in four weeks over the visiting Titans, who have lost five in a row in Indianapolis.
Two weeks after its worst home defeat in two decades, 38-8 to St. Louis, Indianapolis (7-4) fell behind 27-3 at the half en route to another humbling 40-11 loss at Arizona on Sunday.
In a series of Twitter posts, Irsay called on the Colts to find a way to win the division title, accentuate the team’s strengths, limit the weaknesses and ”get our heads out of r butts-WAKE UP!”
Pagano is trying to make that happen.
”We have to figure out a way, because something’s missing, and it certainly isn’t our players and their effort and the way they practice and the way that they prepare and the time they put in,” he said.
Indianapolis has a chance to bounce back and virtually wrap up the AFC South with a victory over second-place Tennessee (5-6), which trails the Colts by two games.
Although they had dropped five of their previous six, the Titans are in control of the AFC’s sixth and final playoff spot after a dramatic 23-19 victory over Oakland on Sunday.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has taken over with Jake Locker out for the season, went 30 of 42 for a season-best 320 yards and two touchdowns - including a 10-yard go-ahead strike to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds remaining.
Wright caught six passes for a career-best 103 yards, while rookie Justin Hunter had a breakout performance with six catches for 109. It was Tennessee’s first 300-yard passing game with two 100-yard receivers since 2004.
After connecting on 71.8 percent of his attempts for 806 yards with five touchdowns and no picks in his last three games, Fitzpatrick is looking to keep the Titans ahead of the five other 5-6 teams in the muddled AFC playoff chase.
”Hopefully we’ll capture some of the momentum we have … and use that to catapult us through the rest of the season,” Fitzpatrick said.
Tennessee can make a big statement against the Colts, who haven’t dropped back-to-back contests in their last 26 regular-season games. The Titans, however, have lost 17 of 21 in this series, including nine of 10 in Indianapolis.
They’ll have to end their five-game skid without two-time Pro Bowl safety Michael Griffin after he lost his appeal of a one-game suspension for a hit on Oakland tight end Mychal Rivera on Sunday.
Tennessee will try to get off to another strong start against a Indianapolis team that’s been outscored 93-12 in the first half over its last four games. The Titans jumped ahead 17-3 on the visiting Colts on Nov. 14 but failed to hold on in a 30-27 loss.
Andrew Luck went 23 of 36 for 232 yards with a touchdown run in that contest, but threw for 163 yards - the second-lowest total of his two NFL seasons - against the Cardinals. He’s tossed two touchdowns and four interceptions in his last three games after throwing for 13 scores with three picks over his first eight.
Donald Brown has totaled 321 yards and averaged 7.3 per carry with three touchdowns in his last three games against the Titans, but was limited to two rushes for one yard against Arizona.
Indianapolis’ Trent Richardson has totaled 59 yards on 2.1 per carry over the last four games.
Tennessee’s Chris Johnson ran in a pair of first-quarter scores and finished with 86 yards on 5.1 per carry in the first meeting. Johnson, however, has run for 59.5 yards per game in his last six meetings with the Colts, who have the 27th-ranked run defense in the league at 125.5 yards per game.
After limiting opponents to 15.8 points per game and 32.3 percent on third-down conversions during a 4-1 start, the Colts have allowed teams to score 30.2 and convert on 45.2 percent of third downs while splitting its last six.
Fitzpatrick was at his best on third down against the Raiders, completing 10 of 14 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns as Tennessee converted 10 of 18 third-down tries.