The Tennessee Titans defense held in the red zone with just over two minutes remaining to force a turnover on downs. A 72-yard touchdown for Derrick Henry a few plays later secured a 36-22 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football.
With the win, the Titans are 3-3 and in a three-way tie for the AFC South lead with the Jaguars and Texans. The Colts drop to 2-4, but just a game back and still relevant in a division that still has no frontrunner.
Tennessee entered the game on an 11-game losing streak against the Colts that dated back to 2011, which was the longest active streak for any matchup of NFL teams. But with that snapped, the Titans are in good shape to make a run at the playoffs.
Here are a few things we learned Monday night:
7 things we learned
1. Jacoby Brissett isn’t the lost child Jon Gruden thinks he is
For much of ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast, color commentator and former NFL head coach Jon Gruden acted like it was incredible that Brissett was capable of calling plays more than a month after he was traded to the Colts.
Gruden keeps talking like this is Brissett's first start or something. Damn hes annoying— Stephen White (@sgw94) October 17, 2017
MNF making Jacoby Brissett out to be some kind of utter and complete idiot. Also acting like a wristband is like a complex life-hack.— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) October 17, 2017
Based on the way Gruden described Brissett, it's a wonder the kid knows how to put his uniform on.— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) October 17, 2017
Brissett finished the game with 212 passing yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
He won’t be the Colts starter once Andrew Luck is healthy, but the 23-year-old quarterback has looked like an NFL starter over the last month and that could make him a valuable asset for Indianapolis as trade bait in the offseason.
The future looks bright for Brissett, and the Colts look like they’re in capable hands until Luck is ready to play.
2. Marcus Mariota is not 100 percent
While Luck isn’t ready to play, the Titans thought Mariota was healthy enough to start in Week 6 after sitting out Week 5 with a hamstring injury. It may have been a little premature, though.
No, it wasn’t close to the disaster that the Minnesota Vikings ran into a week ago when they rushed Sam Bradford back too soon. But it was clear that Mariota wasn’t right and he was a statue in the pocket for most pass plays. When the pocket would break down, Mariota would go down.
Ultimately, though, he played well. He finished with 306 yards and threw this go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter:
That’s a throw Matt Cassel would never, ever, ever make. Last week, the 35-year-old backup threw for 141 yards on 32 passes in a loss to the Dolphins.
Mariota did enough to give Tennessee the win, but the Titans were lucky that he didn’t cause more damage to his hamstring Monday.
3. Ryan Succop is automatic
Everyone misses every once in a while. Hell, even Adam Vinatieri missed an extra point Monday night. But on field goals inside the 50-yard line, Succop just doesn’t miss.
He broke the record for consecutive field goals under 50 yards with his first of the night:
Then he went ahead and pushed the record to 51 with four more field goals before the end of the game.
Succop was Mr. Irrelevant in 2009 and is one of the rare examples of that pick actually getting used on a player who did something in the NFL.
4. Not scoring touchdowns is bad
OK, maybe this isn’t a new thing we learned tonight, but the point was kind of driven home by the Titans coming up short five times. It’s great that Succop is so reliable, but any time you ask your kicker to make that many field goals and not one of them was from more than 50 yards, it just means your offense isn’t finishing drives.
Last year, the Titans were the best team in the NFL in red zone efficiency with touchdowns on 72 percent of drives that got inside the 20.
Maybe the Titans will return to that 2016 form as Mariota’s health improves, but for now, the team’s struggles to get in the end zone are problematic and were the reason this game was even close.
5. Brissett could use some help
Jack Doyle and Donte Moncrief were the two that Brissett targeted most often Monday. Neither was particularly reliable.
A potential touchdown pass in the first quarter bounced off the fingertips of Brissett, and Doyle had an awful night that included a fumble in the third quarter to set up the Titans with good field position.
When T.Y. Hilton is held in check like he was Monday, the other options for the Colts in the passing game are few and far between.
6. Run the ball
Both teams seemed to have the most success on offense when they leaned on power running up the middle. And both teams seemed to struggle to commit to the run anyway.
The Titans probably could’ve gotten into the end zone with more frequency if the team continued to bulldoze ahead with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. On one play inside the 5-yard line, the team instead ran a jet sweep with Delanie Walker that lost yardage and forced a pass on third down.
But Indianapolis abandoning the run was even worse. Where was Marlon Mack? The rookie running back opened the game with a 22-yard run and finished the night with a grand total of two carries. TWO!
Frank Gore averaged about 5 yards per carry but got only 10 carries himself. The Colts pinned their hopes on Brissett, who certainly could’ve used a running game to take off some of the pressure.
7. Tennessee is an ... interesting place
Hey, uh, what is this?
And I guess this gladiator guy is supposed to be a titan?
You do you, Nashville.