Its a Monday Night Showdown in the Music City tonight, with a chance for each team to get in a 3 way tie for 1st place in the AFC South. As if that weren’t enough to create a buzz around this game, the Colts have also beaten Tennessee 11 straight times, and Pagano (10-0) has never lost to the Titans. Tennessee’s quarterback Marcus Mariota is going to be a game times decision, although reports are saying he is going to play, so the Colts defense had better be ready for a dual threat quarterback as well as the Titan’s strong running game.
So lets break down some of the keys to victory for the Colts
Keys to Victory
- Take care of Jurell Casey on defense.
- Casey is a game changing interior defensive lineman, and the Titans rely on him to disrupt both the run games of opposing teams, as well as getting after the passer. Jurell Casey has given the Colts fits in the past, and he will test the Colts interior lineman this week especially after the Colts announced that Jack Mewhort has gone to the IR. The Colts will need to gameplan for Casey, and never get in a single matchup with him. He needs 2 men on him at all times. Do Not Let Casey take over.
- Get Mack in Space
- Marlon Mack needs more touches, we all know that. However, it will be important to make sure that Mack gets the right type of touches. He has the ability to run inside, however, his strength is in space, this is what makes him a perfect compliment to Gore and Turbin. Last week he had 4 carries for negative yards, and 5 carries for nearly 100 yards. On the plays he busted loose on, he was able to bounce outside on his own and reach the second level. The Colts need to design plays for him to get outside within the offense, especially now that teams will be ready for Mack’s ability to bounce it outside. Get Mack In Space!
- Keep Mariota in the Pocket
- Tennessee is at their best when Mariota is rolling out, and either running or finding receivers crossing the field with him. For the Colts to slow down Mariota, they must contain him in the pocket by setting the edge with John Simon and Jabaal Sheard. It isn’t necessarily as important to get pressure on him from the outside as it is to simply contain him and prevent him from using his legs. Russell Wilson and Seattle took complete advantage of the Colts inability to do this, and it cost the Colts the game. Lets see if they have learned from mistakes against mobile quarterbacks in the past, and keep Mariota inside the pocket to take away his greatest strength.
- Limit Bad Matchups on Defense
- Watching the Colts all season has been painful, they have not been able to slow down tight ends and running backs across the middle. The main reason they are struggling so much is because teams are finding matchups they can take advantage of with a linebacker on a more athletic tight end or wide receiver. If I see Morrison on Delanie Walker in coverage I might break something. How many times do we need to watch an opposing player run away from one of our slower tight ends? It’s time to stop getting gashed across the middle and take care of that problem that has plagued the Colts all season long.
- Start Fast, Finish faster
- Marcus Mariota is not 100% healthy, meaning that the Titans will lean heavily on a strong running game led by Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The Colts need to take away the run game early. The Colts need to get off to a fast start to take away the running game early in the game. However, the Colts have been squandering away leads in the 4th quarters of games all season long. So it will be equally as important for the Colts to finish even faster than they start. The Colts need to go away from the prevent defense that they seem to rely on when they have a lead and continue to play the match up defense that helps them get to that lead. I’m not sure whether it’s a trust thing with the young defenders in the secondary or not, but it’s time to trust them to make enough plays to stop the opposing quarterbacks. It will also allow you to send more pressure at the quarterbacks later in the games, something that has also lacked in late game situations. I say turn it loose and get even more aggressive in the 4th quarter late tonight, and it will reward you with stronger defensive play.
If the Colts are able to do these 5 things, I believe they will come out of the Music City with a win, and be in 1st place in the AFC South. With an Andrew Luck return coming sooner than later, they are in a prime spot to compete for a playoff spot in a weak AFC this season.