The Tennessee Titans defense didn’t exactly stick to the blueprint they probably wanted going in against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, but all’s well that ends well.
After all, a Manning Fathead was attached to the wall in the defensive line meeting room to remind Tennessee’s front four that they needed to sack the Colts star quarterback as much as possible.
The Titans did not record a single sack against Manning in Monday night’s 31-21 victory over the Colts, but even without the tangible pressure of sacks, Tennessee was able to shut down Indianapolis’ dynamic receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne for much of the game. Wayne managed three receptions for 29 yards in the game, while Harrison had just one catch for 12 yards.
The Colts’ duo had just four catches the week before against Green Bay, and that apparently was a recipe for the success the Titans were able to follow on Monday night.
“We had a good game plan for them. We saw what Green Bay was able to do to them,” explained Harper, a former Colt, who defensed two key passes on Harrison, one to prevent a touchdown and the other on a fourth-down stop. “They were able to stay square on them, and they had trouble with DBs that stayed square. They like guys to just let them run free, but we got our hands on them and pushed them around and got them off their timing, and that was huge.”
Finnegan was mostly on Wayne and gave credit to the defensive line for getting enough pressure to throw Peyton Manning’s timing off just enough.
“They were able to get some pressure on him, even though they didn’t get any sacks,” Finnegan. “We knew what they were doing for the most part. We were coached well and we were able to make some plays on the ball and make Peyton take some checkdowns now and then.”
Manning finished 26 of 41 for 223 yards with two touchdown passes, but also was intercepted twice, both times by Chris Hope.
SHORT-HANDED: The Titans knew before kickoff that they would be without defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, whose streak of 54 consecutive regular-season starts came to an end because of a groin injury.
What they couldn’t have known was that they would lose his replacement before the defense could even take the field.
Ball was on the opening kickoff and suffered a concussion on the play, so he never got to make what was scheduled to be his first start as a Titan. Instead, second-year man Jacob Ford got the start at right defensive end, and William Hayes, active only because Vanden Bosch was out, wound up as the chief backup.
“Dave Ball went down the first play of the game, so for us to hang in there and do what we did, I think we did OK,” said Ford, who finished with one tackle for loss.
OTHER INJURIES: Not only did Ball leave the game with a concussion, so did running back Quinton Ganther, who was also injured on a special teams play.
Neither Ball nor Ganther returned to the game.
ADJUSTING: The Titans credited their second-half offensive turnaround to the fact that they reacted at halftime to the four-linebacker set the Colts showed in the first half. It was the first time they had ever seen such a set from the Colts, who were making an extra effort to stop Titans running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White.
The Colts won the battle, holding Tennessee to just 88 yards on the ground, but lost the war when Kerry Collins took to the air. Collins completed 24 of 37 passes for 193 yards and was not intercepted or sacked.
“We did what we needed to do,” receiver Justin McCareins said. “We weren’t running the ball as effectively as we needed to do, especially in the first half. So we made some adjustments. They had an extra linebacker in there for most of the first half. They were forcing us to throw the ball, and Kerry and the rest of us picked it up and got it done.”