Analysis

Colts and Titans Committed to Stopping the Run in NFL Week 4

Jonathan Taylor

This is a huge divisional matchup in the AFC South, as both the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts try to keep pace with the suddenly surging Jacksonville Jaguars.

Both teams got a much-needed win in Week 3 when the Titans held on to beat the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Colts pulled off an upset beating the Kansas City Chiefs 20-17. The Titans swept the Colts last year — finishing the regular season as the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Look for both teams to get the ground game going in this one.

Colts Offense vs. Titans Defense

This Colts offense is centered around Jonathan Taylor, who had 71 yards rushing on 21 carries in their win versus the Chiefs last week. I’ll look for Titans coach Mike Vrabel to load the box and make Matt Ryan and his receiving corps beat them.

In their two games in 2021, the Titans held Taylor to a combined 136 yards rushing on just 26 combined carries. That may be a bit of a pipe dream for this year’s defense, which is currently giving up 145 yards on the ground per game, tying them for 29th in the NFL. The Titans’ defense also ranks dead last in yards per rush attempt allowing 5.8 yards per carry.

Again, look for the Titans to commit as many bodies as needed to take Taylor away and force Ryan to fit the ball into tight coverage. I foresee the plan being to stop the run on early downs and force the Colts into as many third-and-7 plus situations as possible. Then they’ll cut their pass rushers Rashad Weaver, Jeffery Simmons, Bud Dupree and Denico Autry loose to hunt down Ryan.

The tight ends became somewhat of a focal point for the Colts versus the Chiefs last week. Rookie Jelani Woods came out of nowhere to snag two passes for two touchdowns, including the game-winner. Woods will not catch this Titans’ defense by surprise, trust me on that! He is a big body guy at 6-foot 7-inches, 253 pounds, so Tennessee needs to match up accordingly. For the Colts to have success on the offensive side of the ball, Taylor cannot be the only source of production. Michael Pittman, Alec Pierce, Parris Campbell, and others are going to have to be productive and win some 50/50 balls.

Titans Offense vs Colts Defense

The Titans’ offense ranks 26th in total offense averaging 302 yards per game, with 94 of those yards coming on the ground. Their bell cow back, Derrick Henry, only has 192 yards rushing on 54 carries for 3.6 yards per rush this season. On the other hand, the Colts’ defense is only giving up 77 yards per game on the ground, which ranks third, and 2.6 yards per rush, which leads the league. Defensive tackles DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart make it extremely difficult to run between the tackles.

Look for the Colts’ defense to load up the box on early downs to take Henry out of the game. That means the Titans will have to beat the Colts riding the arm of Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill is completing 62% of his passes for a little more than 200 yards per game. He’s thrown a pedestrian three TDs and three INTs. The good thing for Tannehill and the Titans’ offense is he has only been sacked four times.

With starting left tackle Taylor Lewan out with an injury, it might be challenging to keep him upright versus the Colts’ pass rush. Gus Bradley and the defense did a great job last week versus Patrick Mahomes and that explosive Chiefs offense.

Bradley’s defense usually plays a lot of single-high 3-deep zone coverage, but mixed things up last week and played some form of a 2-high shell on more than 55% of snaps. This took away the deep routes and made the Chiefs and Mahomes check the ball down. Look for Bradley and the Colts defense to go back to a loaded box and Seattle cover-3 scheme, especially on early downs to stop Henry.

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