Tennessee Titans latest loss may have sealed their fate

Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis (8) is tackled by Indianapolis Colts defensive end Samson
Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis (8) is tackled by Indianapolis Colts defensive end Samson / Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY

It was theirs for the taking, but the Tennessee Titans let a home game against a division rival slip away.

Mike Vrabel’s club played one of its better games of the season on offense. However, it was a generous pass defense and numerous miscues on special teams that cost the club

The Titans took the opening drive of the game and in four plays owned the lead after a Derrick Henry 22-yard touchdown run. The visiting Indianapolis Colts quickly responded with a deep shot to Alec Pierce to tie the score.

Thanks to a Nick Folk field goal late in the first quarter and another Derrick Henry TD run a few minutes later, Tennessee owned a 17-7 lead with 10:08 left before halftime.

Indianapolis kept crawling closer, but the Titans’ defense kept limiting their AFC South rival to field goals. Vrabel’s squad owned a one-point lead late in the third quarter. Then the Tennessee special teams were suddenly not so special.

Where the Tennessee Titans started to collapse

Ryan Stonehouse had a punt blocked by a free rusher thanks to a clueless group of players who are only active on game day to do this job. The Colts scored and then went for two but the pass attempt wound up in the hands of Tennessee’s Amani Hooker and the Titans were down just 22-19.

Moments later, Stonehouse had a punt fumbled with yet another unblocked rusher in his face. Adding injury to insult, Stonehouse was injured on the play. That miscue set up another Colts field goal and Indianapolis was up 25-19.

Will Levis responded by driving down the field and finishing what should have been a game-winning drive with a touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins. With Stonehouse being knocked out of the game, Folk’s regular holder was sidelined and he pushed the PAT left.

The game was destined for overtime, and it came down to which team could make the most plays. While the Titans got the ball first and kicked a field goal to take a 28-25 lead, it was the Colts who made the most of their opportunity with another bomb to Alec Pierce to set up the game-winning touchdown.

The Houston Texans also won on Sunday, meaning they and the Colts both own 7-5 records. Both are pursuing the 8-3 Jaguars, who host Cincinnati on Monday night.

It was the Titans’ first loss at Nashville this season. More significantly, it dropped the team to 0-3 within the division and a crippling 2-6 vs. the conference. It would not be a shock to see Jacksonville, Houston, and Indianapolis all in the playoffs. As for Vrabel’s club, they couldn’t close the deal on Sunday, and that may have closed the door on their 2023 season.