The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Sports

October 30, 2011

Imperfection still intact

Colts handed eighth loss in eight games

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Another game, another loss for the Indianapolis Colts. The imperfect season continues.

An inability to get much going on offense, coupled with too many special teams miscues (multiple penalties and a blocked punt that wound up being recovered for a touchdown), allowed the Tennessee Titans to come away with a 27-10 win Sunday at LP Field.

Indianapolis drops to 0-8 for the season and 0-2 in the AFC South race with eight games remaining in the regular season. Atlanta comes to Lucas Oil Stadium this week to begin a three-game home stand for the Colts, that also includes games with divisional rival Jacksonville (Nov. 13) and Carolina (Nov. 27).

Tennessee improved to 4-3 for the year, snapping a two-game losing streak in the process. The Titans will play host to Cincinnati this week. It was the Colts’ first loss to Tennessee since the 2008 season (31-21), ending a five-game Indianapolis series streak.

Coupled with St. Louis’ 31-21 upset of the New Orleans Saints earlier in the day, Indianapolis and Miami have vaulted to the top of the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes as the National Football League’s only winless teams. The Dolphins led the New York Giants early but wound up losing 20-17.

Luck, Stanford University’s starting quarterback and the son of former Houston Oilers quarterback Oliver Luck, is considered to be the best player available in next spring’s NFL Draft.

As for the Colts’ loss to Tennessee, an inconsistent offensive performance limited Indianapolis for most of the afternoon. Quarterback Curtis Painter completed 26-of-49 pass attempts (both career highs) for 250 yards but had two passes intercepted after being tipped. Painter also rushed seven times for 79 times (also a pair of career bests).

Jim Caldwell’s team couldn’t take advantage of a defensive effort that was improved from a week before.

While Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck connected on 23-of-33 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown, running back Chris Johnson was limited to 34 yards in 14 carries. Javon Ringer had a team-high 60 yards in 14 attempts.

“They came out and got a quick three. But other than that, we were getting off the field, getting some stops and making some plays here and there,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “It just really boils down to the Titans made plays when they had to and we didn’t.”

Field position played a large role in the Colts’ first-half offensive struggles as the average drive start was the 15-yard line. Tennessee’s average drive start was their own 32.

“We were backed up quite a bit (in the first half). Couple that with penalties that were on top of it, it just made those holes deeper to dig out of. It was tough for our offense to punch that thing out, which we were not able to do,” Caldwell said afterward. “We couldn’t flip the field back so (Tennessee) was abler to stack up a few points in that regard. Our defense played hard and we were able to do what we thought we wanted to in terms of stopping the run.”

Also, Indianapolis had a combined 10 total penalties for 66 yards. The Colts have been penalized 17 times over the last two weeks in losses to New Orleans and Tennessee.

“I think taking a look at the first half, we just did a lot of things that beat ourselves,” Painter added.

“We were backed up a few times. But we didn’t help the situation with a couple of penalties there. And that’s kind of all across the board. (That’s) on me as well. Those are things that we have to get better at.”

The Titans took a 3-0 lead with 7:01 left in the first quarter on a 51-yard field goal by placekicker Rob Bironas. That margin soon ballooned to 10-0 as cornerback Jason McCourty recovered a blocked punt in the end zone midway through the second quarter.

Pat McAfee’s attempted punt out of his own end zone was smothered by Tennessee linebacker Patrick Bailey as the inside of the Colts offensive line allowed a jailbreak on the punt rush.

Bironas added a 50-yard field goal with 2:31 left in the second quarter to push the lead to 13-0. Wide receiver Nate Washington’s three-yard run after a lateral from Hasselbeck pushed the Tennessee lead to 20-0 at halftime.

Indianapolis finally got things going in the second half, putting 10 points on the scoreboard thanks to a 22-yard field goal by placekicker Adam Vinatieri and a four-yard run by running back Donald Brown. But the Colts’ late heroics proved to be too little, too late.

Tight end Dallas Clark had six catches for 77 yards while wide receiver Pierre Garcon added seven receptions for 66 yards.

Injury list — Wide receiver Blair White left with a knee injury in the second quarter. He came back briefly but then was sidelined for the remainder of the afternoon.

Offensive tackle Quinn Ojinnaka also left with a knee injury. Ojinnaka hurt his left knee late in the fourth quarter and did not return.

Running back Joseph Addai (hamstring) dressed but did not play. Addai has been nursing a strained right hamstring for the past three weeks.

Pregame inactives — Sitting out the Titans game were quarterback Peyton Manning (neck), offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo (ankle), offensive guard/offensive tackle Ryan Diem (ankle), defensive tackle Drake Nevis (back), offensive guard Joe Reitz (knee), cornerback Jacob Lacey and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez.

Lacey and Gonzalez were both healthy inactives.

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