The Titans (4-5) host the Colts (6-3) on Nov. 14 at LP Field. Here’s a first glance at the matchup:
Tennessee lost to the Jaguars 29-27 on Nov. 10, committing four turnovers. QB Jake Locker suffered a season-ending foot injury and will be replaced by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Indianapolis is coming off a 38-8 home loss to St. Louis. The Colts are 7-0 in weeks following a loss in the past two seasons, including a 27-7 win at San Francisco and a 39-33 win over Denver this year.
Team stat comparisons
Tennessee’s Offensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 21st (322.9)
Rushing Yards/Game: 13th (111.2)
Passing Yards/Game: 23rd (211.7)
Turnover Ratio: Plus-4 (tied for 9th in NFL)
Indianapolis’ Defensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 21st (367.8)
Rushing Yards/Game: 26th (126.6)
Passing Yards/Game: 18th (241.2)
Points Allowed/Game: 9th (21.4)
Tennessee’s Defensive Rankings:
Yards/Game 9th (326.2)
Rushing Yards/Game 21st (114.9)
Passing Yards/Game 8th (211.3)
Points Allowed/Game: 10th (21.8)
Indianapolis’ Offensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 13th (348.1)
Rushing Yards/Game 15th (110.2)
Passing Yards/Game 15th (237.9)
Turnover Ratio Plus-3 (11th)
The Titans trail 23-14 in 37 meetings (including the 1999 AFC Divisional that Tennessee won). Indianapolis has a three-game win streak in the rivalry that’s included two meetings every year since 2002 when the NFL went to its current division alignment.
The previous meeting
Tennessee built a 13-point lead at halftime, opening with an 80-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Jake Locker to Jared Cook, a pair of field goals by Rob Bironas and a 40 interception return for a touchdown by Will Witherspoon, but lost 27-23.
Indianapolis engineered an 80-yard drive of its own to open the second half that included three third-down conversions (two passes and a 1-yard TD run by Delone Carter), and seized the lead on a 3-yard interception return for a touchdown by Cassius Vaughn.
The Titans moved to the Colts’ 2-yard line but had to settle for another field goal by Bironas to give Tennessee a 23-21 lead four minutes into the fourth quarter, but Indianapolis added a pair of field goals by Adam Vinatieri.
This is Tennessee’s first and only scheduled prime-time appearance of 2013, and the fourth time Indianapolis will start a game under the lights this season. The Colts are 2-1 in those games, with a loss at San Diego and wins against Denver and Houston, and are 6-0 in franchise history on NFL Network.
After winning at St. Louis to move to 4-4, Tennessee’s players talked about the importance of defeating Jacksonville last week to make the matchup with the Indianapolis even more important. The Titans received help from the Rams against the Colts last week, but lost to the Jaguars. That outcome, ironically, has made this matchup even more critical. Instead of an opportunity to seize first place in the AFC South, Tennessee needs to win to move within one game of Indianapolis. A loss would put the Titans three back of the Colts with six games to go.
Tennessee has held five of nine opponents to 21 points or less this season. Alterraun Verner is tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions, and Jurrell Casey has a team-best seven sacks.
Fitzpatrick relieved Locker against Jacksonville and had his strongest passing performance of 2013, completing 22 of 33 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a short TD, but lost a fumble that was returned 21 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Kendall Wright leads Titans receivers with 50 catches for 580 yards has one TD.
The Colts are led by second-year QB Andrew Luck, who is 183-for-311 passing for 2,198 yards and 14 TDs against six interceptions (87.5 passer rating) this season. Indianapolis is adjusting to playing without long-time great Reggie Wayne, who suffered a season-ending injury on Oct. 20. T.Y. Hilton leads Colts receivers with 41 catches for 663 yards and five TDs.
Although it executed a trade for Trent Richardson from Cleveland, Indianapolis has struggled to run the football with former first-round pick. He has 88 attempts for 250 yards (2.8 per carry) with two scores. Luck poses a running threat, as well, accounting for 200 yards and three scores on 32 attempts.
Robert Mathis has a career-high and team-best 13.5 sacks this season.
Tags: Alterraun Verner, Chris Johnson, Jake Locker, Kendall Wright, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
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The good news is the wait for a shot at redemption isn’t too long. The bad news is the opportunity for recovery is incredibly short.
The Titans (4-5) must prod past becoming the first opponent to lose to the Jaguars (1-8) this season and ready themselves to host AFC South-leading Indianapolis (6-3) on Thursday Night Football. The Colts are coming off a 38-8 home loss Sunday to the St. Louis Rams.
“We’ve got a game right now, and they’re coming off a tough loss, too, so it’s going to be a battle of wills Thursday,” cornerback Alterraun Verner said.
Verner had an interception early in the fourth quarter (his fifth pick this season), but the Titans’ offense settled for a field goal on a drive that began at the Jacksonville 26-yard line and never cleared the hump.
“Any type of negative connotation you can find, probably fits well with this situation. Embarrassing? Definitely. Frustrating? Yes, because it seems like we can’t break through,” Verner said.
Verner equated the missed opportunity to gain ground on Indy as failure to walk through an open door, but injuries suffered by Titans quarterback Jake Locker (foot), center Brian Schwenke (ankle) and receiver/return specialist Damian Williams (leg) made it seem like the door slammed on Tennessee’s fingers.
Those players were scheduled to have more-detailed exams Monday, and the team has not officially elaborated on the severity of the injuries. Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Locker, Chris Spencer replaced Schwenke and Verner replaced Williams.
Derrick Morgan, who had a sack and three quarterback hits, said the feeling after the game was “sickening.”
“It hurts you to your core. The thing is, we’ve got another game Thursday. That’s the only positive,” Morgan said. “We’ve got a quick turnaround, we’ve got to get re-focused and it’s a must-win for us on Thursday. We’ve got to win out, basically.
“You can’t go in the pit. You can’t go downhill and start breaking away,” Morgan continued. “We’ve got to bond together. The only thing we can do know is keep working because we’ve got seven more games.”
Tags: AFC South, Alterraun Verner, Damian Williams, Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
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Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped in for Jake Locker (foot injury, questionable to return) with 4:25 remaining in the first half and led the Titans on a scoring drive.
Fitzpatrick was 5-for-5 for 53 yards and a touchdown pass to Taylor Thompson with 41 seconds before halftime. Fitzpatrick faked a handoff to Chris Johnson and rolled to his right, finding the tight end in the end zone. It was the first target and catch of the season for Thompson and first touchdown of his two-year career.
Fitzpatrick opened the drive with a screen to Johnson, which gained 10, but a penalty against Kendall Wright for an illegal block moved the ball back to the Tennessee 48-yard line, where the drive began.
Fitzpatrick connected with Justin Hunter for 11 on the next play, and with Wright for gains of 15 (on third-and-2) and 8 during the eight-play, 52-yard drive that spanned 3:44.
The Titans trailed 13-7 at halftime.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Jake Locker, Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
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The Titans offense has two of the NFL’s top performers on third down in 2013. Quarterback Jake Locker has a 106.3 passer rating on third down, ranking him third in the league and second in the AFC among qualifying players. On third down, he has completed 39 of 61 passes (63.9 percent) for 426 yards and four touchdowns without throwing an interception.
Only Carolina’s Cam Newton (120.4 passer rating) and Peyton Manning (112.7) own better passer ratings than Locker on third down this season.
Highest NFL Passer Rating on Third Down in 2013
120.4 – Cam Newton (Panthers)
112.7 – Peyton Manning (Broncos)
106.3 – Jake Locker (Titans)
101.2 – Colin Kaepernick (49ers)
100.8 – Drew Brees (Chargers)
96.8 – Matthew Stafford (Lions)
93.8 – Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
92.4 – Jay Cutler (Bears)
87.6 – Philip Rivers (Chargers)
87.3 – Andrew Luck (Colts)
Meanwhile, wide receiver Kendall Wright ranks second in the NFL and leads the AFC with 18 total receptions on third down. He trails only Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson, who has 19 third-down receptions.
Most Receptions on Third Down in 2013
19 – Vincent Jackson (Buccaneers)
18 – Kendall Wright (Titans)
17 – Jordan Cameron (Browns)
17 – Andre Johnson (Texans)
16 – Antonio Brown (Steelers)
16 – Pierre Garcon (Redskins)
16 – A.J. Green (Bengals)
16 – Jeremey Kerley (Jets)
16 – Denarius Moore (Raiders
15 – Anquan Boldin (49ers)
Tags: Jake Locker, Kendall Wright
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Titans/Oilers greats Blaine Bishop and Kevin Dyson joined “Voice of the Titans” Mike Keith for a special edition of Titans All Access that will air the weekend of Nov. 1-3.
Keith discussed multiple aspects for how the Titans’ current season has gone, as well as other NFL trends, with the members of the 1999 AFC Championship team that appeared in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Bishop, a four-time Pro Bowl safety, said he’s liked what he’s seen from the free agents that Tennessee signed to improve its defense and has enjoyed the return of Gregg Williams to the coaching staff as a senior assistant.
“They’re just flying around, showing signs of what we used to have, one of those great defenses the years I played,” Bishop said. “They’re real close to being at an elite level defensive team and they’re right there on the cusp.”
One of the most interesting additions, Bishop said, is defensive end Ropati Pitoitua, who is tied for the team lead with four sacks (a career high).
“He’s stopping the running game,” Bishop said. “He’s making pressure on the quarterback, and I think that’s making it easier for the guys in the secondary to cover and the whole defense is playing a lot better.”
Dyson, a first-round selection in the 1998 NFL Draft who scored on the Music City Miracle, said he’s been pleased with the development of Jake Locker. Dyson and Bishop said Locker’s toughness reminds them of their teammate, the late Steve McNair.
“I love the progression he’s going through. I think they’ve done some things to help him out: give him some stationary targets,” Dyson told Keith. “He’s not getting a lot of moving routes. He’s doing some things there, but the biggest thing is players believe in him and have a trust in him. That’s the biggest difference, regardless of the skillset. You can tell a difference when he’s in there.”
Tags: Blaine Bishop, Jake Locker, Kevin Dyson, Mike Keith, Music City Miracle, Steve McNair, Super Bowl XXXIV
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The Titans aren’t quite where they wanted to be through seven games, but they believe they can still get to where they want to go.
After starting 3-1, Tennessee has lost its past three games to teams that are a combined 21-3 through eight weeks. The Titans (3-4) visit the St. Louis Rams (3-5) Sunday, starting a three-game span against opponents that are 8-15 through eight weeks.
By no means will the Titans expect an easy win in any of their nine remaining regular season games, but results suggest the road may be less difficult than it has been.
The Titans have played the third-toughest schedule in the NFL through eight weeks, with seven opponents combining for a total of 33 wins and 20 losses for a winning percentage of .623. Only AFC South foes Jacksonville (.705 win percentage) and Houston (.642 win percentage) have faced tougher slates this season.
“We knew coming into the season it wasn’t going to be easy and we’ve faced a little adversity with losing three weeks,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “Now, it’s time for us to turn it around. We’ve got a chance to go home, get our minds clear and now it’s all about football, so I’m excited to see what we do in this upcoming week.”
The Titans’ remaining opponents are 29-39, and only Indianapolis (5-2) and Denver (7-1) have winning records through eight weeks.
“Everything we planned to do this season is still out there so there’s no reason for our confidence to have waivered,” McCourty said. “We can still get done everything we want to get done so we just have to continue to come together as a team.”
After visiting the Rams, the Titans will host Jacksonville (0-8) on Nov. 10 and Indianapolis on Nov. 14 before three straight road games: Oakland on Nov. 24, Indy on Dec. 1 and Denver on Dec. 8. Tennessee will follow that by hosting Arizona (4-4) on Dec. 15, visiting Jacksonville Dec. 22 and hosting Houston (2-5) on Dec. 29. The Texans are trying to snap a five-game losing streak when they host the Colts Sunday night.
Titans QB Jake Locker, who returned to the lineup Oct. 20 after suffering hip and knee sprains on Sept. 29, said the team is encouraged by the upcoming opportunities.
“You look at where we sit in our division, and we’re not where we want to be,” Locker said. “We’re 3-4 and we think we could have a few more wins but we don’t, but in the grand scheme of things we’re two games back and we have an opportunity to play that team twice before the end of the year.”
Tags: AFC South, Jake Locker, Jason McCourty, NFL, Tennessee, Tennessee Titans
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Titans general manager Ruston Webster told LP Field suite holders and coach Mike Munchak told reporters Monday that they were happy with the decision to play Jake Locker a day earlier, and with how the third-year pro performed in his first action since Sept. 29.
Webster told attendees at an appreciation breakfast how determined Locker was to return to the lineup, proclaiming he’d be able to start against San Francisco the week before during a Saturday practice in Seattle. Webster also described the timeline and evaluation process the Titans used to determine how Locker’s sprained hip and knee responded to physical tests during practices and if they would be OK during the game.
“He felt good. He was adamant about playing,” Webster said. “He really wanted to play and that’s just his makeup and the type of guy he is.”
Locker completed 25 of 41 passes for 326 yards with two touchdowns and one interception (his first of the season) for a passer rating of 92.1. He also scrambled three times for 29 yards. Although he took three sacks, the second-year starter protected himself by moving around enough despite wearing a brace that gave his knee additional support.
Munchak said Locker experienced some expected soreness but added “I think he’s very happy he played.”
“He was very accurate early, made some nice throws early. He wants the pick back. That was one of the bad balls he threw, but I thought overall (he was) very competitive,” Munchak said. “I never thought once to take him out of that game. I never once thought it was a bad idea. He’s special that way, and I think that’s why we keep saying when the smoke clears the guy is going to be a winner. We’ve got some work ahead of us this year, but it was a good start for him.”
The alternative of not playing against the 49ers, combined with this week’s bye would have meant a span of more than a month without game competition. The Titans (3-4) return to action by visiting the St. Louis Rams (3-4) Nov. 3.
Former Titans quarterback Neil O’Donnell, who joined Webster at the panel discussion led by Jonathan Hutton of Titans Radio and 104.5 The Zone said a gap that long would make the return more challenging.
“I look at Jake with quarterback’s eyes looking out and I wouldn’t want to miss five weeks because it’s almost like missing the whole preseason and coming back opening day: it’s rusty, you have to adjust to the speed of the game, the timing with the wide receivers,” O’Donnell said. “I thought it was very key that he came back and showed us he was capable of playing. I thought he managed the game pretty well.”
Many Titans players departed for their hometowns or college towns Monday for a quick break, but much of Locker’s bye week will be spent in the training room at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
“He’ll just work his knee, keep going through the rehab, keep getting his leg stronger just like he’d normally do if we were playing,” Munchak said. “He’ll probably get a couple days away from here, which he can do. But he’ll be here. The good thing now is all the ‘Is Jake playing?’ ‘How’s he feeling?’ it’s all behind him now. Now we just, as a team, get ready to beat our next opponent.”
Tags: Jake Locker, LP Field, Mike Munchak, Ruston Webster, Tennessee Titans
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The timeline for Jake Locker’s return will be less about mentality and more about mobility.
In the mind of the third-year quarterback and second-year starter, he’s preparing like he’s going to play, the same way he’s prepped the past two weeks when he was clearly not going to play.
“I think mentally that’s important so you don’t ever lose that edge,” Locker said Thursday. “You prepare like you’re going to play, and I’m doing nothing different this week.”
Locker participated in drills Wednesday and did more Thursday, taking snaps in 11-on-11 and testing his mobility. The Titans also want to see how his body responds, and coach Mike Munchak is waiting to make a decision on Locker’s availability for Sunday when Tennessee (3-3) hosts San Francisco (4-2) at LP Field.
“I just wanted to get in and do everything I could every day to get better and try to get back on the field as soon as possible. That’s what I’ve tried to do and my body has responded well,” Locker said. “There’s certain things that don’t feel normal yet, but I’m feeling pretty good, and every day I’m trying to progress with that stuff. There’s just new things each day and seeing what feels good and where my comfort level is with it.”
Locker has worn a large brace on his leg the past two days, which has given him confidence in his right hip and knee that were sprained on Sept. 29.
Titans coach Mike Munchak increased the simulated stress around Locker during Thursday’s practice to get a more accurate assessment for how he’s progressing.
“He did more individually and (we) pushed him more (Thursday), had him moving more, and those types of things,” Munchak said. “It’s kind of wait and see really where he’s at. We don’t want to ever say he can’t do anything, so we’ll just wait until (Friday) and see.”
The return to that much activity has provided an encouraging lift for Titans players and coaches, who have dropped the past two games.
“It’s good to see him back on the field and able to move around and do some things, so that gives us excitement with where he’s going,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “He’s a tough kid, a strong-minded kid and we’re excited about getting him back out here.”
Receiver Nate Washington said as soon as doctors learned Locker hadn’t suffered structural damage, “I knew he was going to be back out there in no time. He’s a fighter, a guy that takes pride in his work.”
Loggains said it was obvious how much Locker wanted to play at Seattle last week because it was so close to Locker’s hometown of Ferndale, Wash.
The Titans have their bye next week, which would allow that much more time to re-establish the rhythm Locker was developing with receivers.
As much as Locker wants to return this week, he said he’d temper that by being “honest with (coaches and trainers) and tell them how I’m feeling and how my body feels, some of the limitations I might have. I think honesty is always the best.”
Tags: Jake Locker, LP Field, Mike Munchak, Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans
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The Titans received an encouraging medical report Tuesday after Jake Locker underwent a second MRI. The first MRI that was taken Sunday after Locker was injured was inconclusive, so the Titans were in wait-and-see mode until the swelling Locker encountered subsided.
“We received reassuring reports from the second MRI (Tuesday) and they confirmed that there was no major damage to Jake Locker’s hip joint – it is classified as a sprained hip,” the team announced. “The area will need time to heal and strengthen, but he won’t require surgery and he has already begun a rehab routine for both his hip and knee. We certainly would expect him to miss a few weeks, but we are encouraged by the news (Tuesday).”
Locker suffered the sprained hip and knee (the knee is thought to be less major than the hip injury) early in the third quarter during a pass attempt. After firing the ball toward Nate Washington, Locker was hit from the front left by Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. The hit knocked Locker backward and he spun about 180 degrees. As Locker’s right foot planted, he took another hit from Jets linebacker Quinton Coples that pushed him away from the direction he was going and appeared to put extra stress on Locker’s right hip and knee. Locker reached for his hip after the hit by Coples and went to the ground.
Teammates came by to share words of encouragement and prayed for Locker, who left the field on a cart as the crowd at LP Field chanted, “Jake, Jake, Jake…”
Titans coach Mike Munchak said he considered both hits “unnecessary” and the one by Coples as “totally unnecessary,” but neither drew a flag.
Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said “I think the hit (by Wilkerson) wasn’t too aggressive but it was a late hit. It wasn’t called for,” and tight end Delanie Walker said “there wasn’t a reason for the late hit he took.”
Locker will not be playing this week and began receiving treatment Monday. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will start for the Titans (3-1) this Sunday against Kansas City (4-0).
Prior to the injury, Locker recorded his first NFL game with three touchdown passes. It was his 15th career start. Munchak said the injury will halt the momentum Locker had been building, but he is confident in Locker’s ability to bounce back and in Fitzpatrick’s ability to fill in.
“You don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but everything was going right for him,” Munchak said. “He was playing well the last couple weeks doing exactly what we thought he would do, what he thought he was capable of. He was playing as good as he’s played against a top defense in that game, in that half, going into the third quarter. It’s a blow to the team, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, in sports this happens. Luckily, we have Fitz, who we think is a very good quarterback.”
Locker missed five starts last season (his first as a captain and starter) with an injury to his left shoulder. He vowed to do what he can to help the Titans while he is sidelined.
“I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers,” Locker said in a statement. “I am going to work as hard as I can to get back as soon as I can. I believe in this team and will do whatever I can to help us win in the meantime.”
Tags: Jake Locker, LP Field, Mike Munchak, Titans
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Alterraun Verner didn’t wait too long to continue his takeaway streak.
Verner intercepted a pass from Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith to Stephen Hill on the second play of the game. Verner sprung to his feet after securing the ball and returned it 34 yards to the New York Jets’ 18-yard line. He received a big block by Michael Griffin on Hill, who suffered a head injury on the play that sidelined him for the rest of the game.
The interception return set up a five-play scoring drive by Tennessee that had two runs by Chris Johnson, two short gains by Jackie Battle and a 1-yard TD pass from Jake Locker to Delanie Walker.
The Titans’ cornerback has recorded a takeaway in every game this season. Verner had interceptions at Pittsburgh and Houston, returning the latter 23 yards for a touchdown. He recorded another takeaway against San Diego when he recovered a fumble of a lateral on the final play of the game.
The interception was the ninth of Verner’s career, and he’s matched his high for interceptions in a season (he had three as a rookie in 2010).
Tags: Alterraun Verner, Chris Johnson, Delanie Walker, Jackie Battle, Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
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