5 takeaways from Colts’ 25-16 loss to Titans

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The Indianapolis Colts are starting the season 0-3 for the time in 10 years after failing to take the lead for 60 minutes against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

It was a hard-fought battle for the first three quarters. The offense struggled to sustain drives for the afternoon and counted on their defense forcing three turnovers to help keep the team in the game.

But, once it got into the fourth quarter, Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry dominated the Colts’ defense. They had no answer for the two as they went on to lead Tennessee to two scoring drives to end the game. That was without A.J. Brown, who was ruled out early in the game, and Julio Jones, who didn’t finish the game.

The biggest deciding factor that helped influence the outcome of the game was when the Titans scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter and Mike Vrabel chose to go for the two-point conversion. Henry easily trotted into the endzone to put them up by nine. That made the attempted comeback by Indianapolis very hard to overcome because of how condensed the offensive playbook was for the day.

It was a rough outing for the organization and there wasn’t much promise that they could carry into Week 4. Here are my five takeaways from today’s loss:

Injuries Amounting

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The Colts saw a number of players leave the matchup throughout the afternoon and the biggest loss was their All-Pro guard, Quenton Nelson. Ian Rapoport already reported that he is believed to have a high-ankle sprain. X-rays were negative and he will have further tests to determine the severity. The first player to go down was their first-round pick, Kwity Paye, who was quickly ruled out with a hamstring injury. The defense saw two starters leave the game in the second half. Rock Ya-Sin ended up getting ruled out with an ankle injury and Khari Willis never came back in after getting labeled as questionable with cramps. Injuries aren't the only reason why the team lost but if they are going to miss players like Big Q then next week's game against the Miami Dolphins will be a lot tougher.

The sustainability of the offense

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The Colts' offense doesn't have an identity right now. They have yet to figure out a consistent rushing attack and the passing game is so condensed right now. Five of the nine offensive drives only had five plays or less, one of those was the field goal drive that ended the first half. The inability to sustain drives has helped keep the opposing defense fresh throughout games and they aren't wearing down teams as they have in the past. Even when they put together a good drive, their issues to find their way to get into the endzone continue to show up. The offense ran a 17-play drive that took 8:34 off the clock to start the second half when the Titans were leading the game 14-10. A touchdown would have given them the lead and some momentum but they ended up settling for a field goal which sucked out everything they had going for them. They would later go on to get to Tennessee's five-yard line in the fourth quarter down 22-13 but would once again settle for their final points of the game with another field goal. Inconsistency is the theme of this team right now.

Where is the pressure from the defensive front?

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One of the biggest problems on the day was the inability of the defense to get any early pressure on Tannehill. The only sack came on the first drive of the game when Bobby Okereke got his hands on the quarterback after coming in on a blitz call. Outside of Okereke's one QB hit, DeForest Buckner was the only player on the defensive front to get his hands on Tannehill and that was only one time. The Tennessee quarterback had plenty of time to make his reads and dice up the defense with his precision passing. Even when the coverage was solid, he was able to pick up first downs with his legs. He had five rush attempts for 56 yards. It was his mobility that helped their offense cross the 50-yard line more times than not. The lack of pressure has been a plaguing issue for this defense and it continues to haunt them in 2021.

Derrick Henry continues to own the Indianapolis' defense

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Despite the Titans missing A.J. Brown and Julio Jones late in the game, the defense failed to bottle up Henry as he bullied his way to get his team first downs to keep the Colts offense on the sideline. He went on to have his fourth game in a row where he has cracked the 100-yard mark against the Matt Eberflus defense. He rushed the ball 28 times for 113 yards. He also brought in three receptions for 31 yards. It was an inexcusable effort by the unit since they knew what the Titans' offense was going to do in the fourth quarter. The Tennessee offensive line just dominated the trenches all afternoon by not allowing much pressure on their quarterback and getting a drive to open up rushing lanes for their star running back.

Identity Crisis

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The Colts are three weeks into the season and they have no identity at all. The offense hasn't been a force on the ground and fails to strike any fear into the opposing defense with their passing attack. The condensed play-calling has limited the explosive plays for the offense. At some point they are going to have to figure out how they can start taking more deep shots otherwise teams are going to know what to expect week in and week out from this unit. The defense is so inconsistent at this point. One drive they look great, they'll force a three-and-out or force a turnover. The next drive they will get carved up through the air and just give up easy plays to the opposing offense. If Frank Reich can't get these issues figured out then it is going to be a very long season for this team. Playoffs shouldn't even be on the mind of the organization, they better just work on developing consistency if they want to start winning some games this season.

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