After losing to the Indianapolis Colts for the second time in three weeks, the Tennessee Titans are slowly falling out of the AFC playoff hunt.
Prior to Sunday, the Titans were the frontrunner for the last AFC Wild Card spot and were still in contention for an AFC South division title. Falling to 5-7 and 0-4 within the division, the Tennessee Titans face two playoff contenders in the last quarter of the season, which does not bode well for their slim playoff hopes.
Although Tennessee still holds tiebreakers over all of the teams that are also in the Wild Card hunt, the Titans must finish with at least the same record as these teams in order for the tiebreakers to have any impact on the AFC playoff picture.
Heartbreaking losses, including two one-score losses to the division leading Colts, may be the thorn in the side of the 2013 Tennessee Titans.
Holding the Colts to just three field goals nearing the end of the half the Titans made a crucial mistake leading to another Colts field goal prior to the half. Dropping back to pass to end the half, Andrew Luck was hit in the back by linebacker Moise Fokou tacking on an additional 15 yards and giving the Colts another play allowing Indianapolis to enter halftime leading 12-7.
The Tennessee charge was led once again by strong defensive play but unlike last week against the Raiders, “Fitzmagic” was nowhere to be found. Ryan Fitzpatrick barely eclipsed the 200-yard mark passing for 201 yards and three interceptions including two that were picked off by Colts safety, Cassius Vaughn. The one bright spot for Fitzpatrick came on Tennessee’s opening possession of the second half. Driving down the field, head coach Mike Munchak elected to go for it on 4 and goal from the one-yard line. The Titans were able to convert after Chris Johnson was the recipient of a dump pass from Fitzpatrick giving Tennessee a 14-12 lead despite the slew of miscues.
The Tennessee defense kept the struggling Titans offense in the game continuing to put pressure on Andrew Luck who was trying to avoid losing two straight games for the first time in his young yet impressive career.
Luck was sacked five times, one of which came at the hands of second year stand-out defensive tackle, Jurrell Casey. Casey leads Tennessee with eight sacks and a forced fumble on the season. Luck was also picked off by Bernard Pollard and fumbled twice but were both were recovered by the Colts.
Leading late in the third quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick committed his fourth and arguably most devastating turnover of the day fumbling after being hit from behind by veteran defensive end, Robert Mathis. Recovered by linebacker Jerrell Freeman, the ball was returned inside the Tennessee 35-yard line setting up Adam Vinatieri for his fifth and final field goal attempt. Vinatieri connected from 49 yards out allowing the Colts to regain the lead for the final time.
With less than five minutes to play the game remained a one-point game in favor of Indianapolis.
On 3rd and 2, Andrew Luck was able to break free and scrambled for 24 yards keeping the drive alive for the Colts headed to the two-minute warning. The drive and inevitably the game was capped off on a four-yard touchdown run by Donald Brown who seems to have the Titans’ number this year. Brown rushed for 54 yards on 14 carries solidifying the win for the Colts with his fourth quarter scamper and the only Indianapolis touchdown in the game.
While the Colts are one win away from clinching the AFC South title, the Tennessee Titans continue to dig a deeper and deeper hole for their playoff chances. Even so, Tennessee remains in the hunt for the final AFC Wild Card spot as they head to Denver to take on the conference leading Broncos led by familiar foe, Peyton Manning.