INDIANAPOLIS -- Thoughts on the Colts’ 27-13 win over the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium:
What it means: A happy day in Indy. The 2011 Colts won’t be joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in NFL annals as an 0-16 team. They played tight and efficient defense, rushed the passer well while not allowing big plays, took the ball away three times and ran the ball with some consistency en route to their first win. It was the first NFL win for Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who was also on that Lions team. The result effectively ended the Titans’ playoff hopes. Now 7-7 they’d need a ton of help to earn the last wild card spot at 9-7.
What I liked -- Colts: Big plays on defense. Maligned cornerback Jacob Lacey took a pass away from Chris Johnson and returned it 32 yards for a score. Pat Angerer killed the Titans when they looked to be getting things going in the fourth quarter, stripping Jared Cook for a fumble which was recovered by Chris Rucker. Angerer also picked off Hasselbeck in the end zone on a deep try for Nate Washington thrown as the quarterback got hit. The Colts got a consistently good push up front and matched it with tight coverage, allowing the Titans few big chunks. Outside of an awkward trip as he backed out from center and handed off, Orlovsky played with composure and decisiveness. The defense probably tackled as well as it has all season -- even on Chris Johnson’s late 35-yard run, Rucker caught him and pulled him down from behind.
What I didn’t like -- Titans: Yes, Matt Hasselbeck was under consistent pressure. But a combination of play-calling by offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and decision-making by Hasselbeck was far too conservative. (The deep shot to Washington that was picked was too little, too late.) Tennessee seemed hell-bent on not taking shots that would stretch out the Colts defense, checking down and throwing short passes that featured Johnson far too often. Why, when so many teams have made so many big plays against Indy this season, were the Titans so willing to settle for short stuff?
Second-guess city: I backed the Titans decision to start and stick with Matt Hasselbeck into the fourth quarter. It’s easy to second guess now. But maybe Jake Locker’s mobility would have made a difference and opened things up. A veteran quarterback typically gets the benefit of the doubt, but given Hasselbeck’s poor performance and the result, Mike Munchak will have to expound on his rationale for going the direction he did.
What I wonder: How much will the Colts allow themselves to celebrate and enjoy this one when, as cathartic as it must be, it gets them to 1-13?
What’s next: The Colts have a quick turn and host division-leading Houston on Thursday night. The Texans beat the Colts on opening day. The Titans host Jacksonville on Christmas Eve. The Jaguars beat the Titans on opening day.