INDIANAPOLIS _ It wasn’t pretty but the Tennessee Titans rallied with two second-half touchdowns to record their first-ever win in Lucas Oil Stadium, 20-16, Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The Titans had been 0-9 all-time at Lucas Oil.
The Titans didn’t exactly make it easy on themselves, trailing 16-6 late in the third quarter and going nowhere offensively, with all of three yards rushing through three quarters.
Apparently it was a halftime challenge/tirade from offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie that helped to spark the Tennessee turnaround. The Titans, who had just nine rushing yards and 21 total plays in the first half, actually waited until the fourth quarter to impose their will on the Colts’ defense.
The Titans ran for 89 yards in the final period, including using the running game to not only get the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run by DeMarco Murray with 5:59 to play, but also to run out the clock at the end, thanks to the battering running of Derrick Henry.
Henry put the exclamation point on the Titans’ win by stiff-arming a Colts tackler who was trying to drag him out of bounds and gained another three or four yards, stayed in bounds and allowed the Titans to run out the clock and escape with the win.
“He lit a fire under our (expletive). He’s a hell of a coach,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said of Robiskie. “He calls the plays and puts us in position to be successful, and he does it every single time. We weren’t making him look good with his good play calls. Sometimes, it goes back and forth, but for sure, we had to focus on getting the run game and getting it moving.”
Robiskie’s remarks resonated with the Titans, who nearly wasted an eight-sack performance by the defense before snapping out of their offensive funk in the final period.
“He was hurt. He was mad, because he felt like we could make plays and we were letting those guys manhandle us,,” said running back Derrick Henry, who finished the day with 79 yards on 13 carries after having zero yards rushing in the first half.
The Titans, who led 6-0 after getting Ryan Succop field goals on their first two possessions of the game, slowly watch the lead disappear, as the Colts answered with a pair of Adam Vinatieri field goals and a Frank Gore touchdown in the first half to go up 13-6 at the half.
When Vinatieri connected on a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter to push the lead to 16-6, the Titans looked in dire straits.
But then the defense gave the Titans the break they needed, as Kevin Byard recovered a Marlon Mack fumble at the Colts’ 4-yard line.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who had thrown two costly first-half interceptions, capitalized on the turnover by hitting tight end Delanie Walker for a touchdown that trimmed the Colts’ lead to 16-13 with 1:50 to play in the third period.
Walker said the Titans had been hurting themselves by their lack of execution, and that that was holding the offense back.
“We looked in the mirror and we figured it out. It was only us that was making mistakes and if we clean it up, we’ll get it going and that’s what you saw. We cleaned it up and we got touchdowns,” Walker said.
Tennessee was then able to piece together a fourth-quarter drive, using the rushing of Henry to march downfield. That drive capped by Murray’s 1-yard plunge, reviving not only the slumbering running game but the Titans’ fortunes as well.
“We made some adjustments,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “That’s what you do. They did an outstanding job of stuffing us and we came in at halftime and made some adjustments. Our guys kind of took it personal that we didn’t run the ball very well, and that made a big difference and helped us win the football game.”
The victory improves the Titans to 7-4, keeping them at least ahead in the AFC wild-card chase and on the heels of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the AFC South lead.
Tennessee owed much of his success in the game to the defense that forced eight sacks of Jacoby Brissett including six in the first half.