Indianapolis Colts Recap: Week 12, vs. Tennessee Titans

The Colts enjoying the open air during a public service event in 2017.

Photo by Lance Cheung, USDA

This fall, the magazine will recap each week of the Colts’ strange, pandemic-hobbled season. This week: digital editor Derek Robertson, with contributors Derek Schultz and Nate Miller break down how COVID finally came for the Colts’ roster, hobbling them and leading to a crushing defeat by their division rivals in the Titans.

Derek Robertson: Let’s be honest: this one was over at halftime. All season long I’ve been waiting for the other COVID shoe to drop for this team, and this week it dropped hard. The absences of Denico Autry and DeForest Buckner allowed Derrick Henry to run all over this team for damn near 200 yards on the way to a commanding Titans victory, not to mention the otherwise-underachieving Jonathan Taylor being still sorely missed on the other side of the ball. The cumulative effect was to make this essentially an afternoon of the Titans performing their greatest hits, with Henry crushing it, Tannehill doing his usual high-efficiency-sneaky-athletic bit, and Malcolm Butler coming within an instant replay of harrying Rivers into a back-breaking fourth-quarter pick. Given the roster circumstances, I’m still not sure how much this really says about the Colts as a team—except, of course, in the all-important playoff race, where the Titans will now take a one-game lead in the division. It’s kind of astonishing, though, how the absence of a handful of players can completely flip the dominating win from just a few weeks ago. How are we feeling?

Nate Miller: Feeling fine, really. The two good things about getting old are (1) being able to wear awful, comfy, cost-efficient Dad Clothes all day, everyday, because who cares; and (2), not raging about sports stuff anymore, because, again, who cares. It’s one bad game under bad circumstances against a very good and cool team. There are 92 billion things in this world to get worked up over, and the Colts being forced to start five Brebeuf JV team-quality linemen is not one of them. It happens! (The Broncos couldn’t even find a JV quarterback to start!) The Colts are still the best team in the division, probably, and if they’re not… well, that’s fine too. Come January I’ll watch whatever playoff game happens to be on the television, all in the comfort of my Kirkland Signature Brand leisure slacks. And I’ll be happy to do so. Are you two whippersnappers all in a huff?

Derek Schultz: I never feel fine after a game like that. Sports are dumb! I agree! And normally, losing is fine! Getting run over by a Dodge Ram Truck going 95 while you’re in a Ford Festiva doing 30 with your flashers on in the breakdown lane on 465 is… not fine! I don’t think this ruins the season or anything, but it makes the division a long shot. Colts would probably have to finish 4-1 to get past Tennessee, and while that’s possible, I don’t see it happening. They were dealt an extremely crappy hand today with the COVID losses and Anthony Castonzo’s injury, but there’s never an excuse for nearly getting 50-burgered, especially by any AFC South opponent.

DR: That’s fair, but I think we have to give the human wrecking ball his due and admit that a team that has Derrick Henry starting at RB isn’t just any divisional opponent. People were low on this Titans squad because of a few underwhelming losses (including the one to the Colts), but they look just as good as they did last season overall to me, and a sight more confident. I’m inclined to side with Nate here and say there’s no shame in losing to the team that conquered the reigning MVP last year and put fear in the heart of Patrick Mahomes. It’s a top-heavy division, and I think it speaks to what this team has accomplished that it’s going blow-for-blow with these guys. It is a tougher road to the playoffs now, but with Vegas tripping all over themselves today and the Ravens having their 6-4 quarter-life crisis with Jackson I’m not too worried just yet. What did the both of you see in this game that you liked, despite the lopsided final score?

NM: Here’s the thing with the Titans: they’re a very cool team who I like watching play football. They’re a cool team who random Bears fans or Oregon people or Norwegians like watching as well, I bet, people with no skin in the game. Keep in mind, I watch these games with my high school freshman son, who deals only in COOL or UNCOOL, like some kind of bullshit Abercrombie Sith—he deals only in absolutes. He thinks the Titans are super cool, which means I do too, I guess. He likes their uniforms, their helmets, Derrick Henry obviously, A.J. Brown, Nashville in general, Kenny Vaccaro, and even Ryan Tannehill. (He is not #ForTheShoe. He is not a #HorseshoeGuy in the slightest. I probably need to trade him.) My point is this: the Colts got their doors blown off by a great team, a cool team, maybe the ONLY team who can beat the Chiefs. There are worse ways to waste away a Sunday in November. 

DS: Damn, the Titans are cool? I’ve always thought they were super lame. Wait, I just remembered you telling me your son thinks I’m cool, which means that… shit… the Titans are DEFINITELY COOL. Side note: is Abercrombie still cool? I rocked an Abercrombie vest 24/7/365 during the Y2K era and was MEGA COOL. (Can we turn this into a thread about turn of the 21st century fashion and pop culture instead of the Colts getting curb-stomped?)

All kidding aside, I think we’re on the same page here: the Colts lost to a good team. After being Indy’s punching bag for 15-plus years, the Titans aren’t to be laughed at and overlooked any longer. We can argue about whether or not it’s ever acceptable to get stuffed into a trash can the way they did, but it doesn’t matter: It counts as one loss. Honestly, there wasn’t really anything to like. I was happy T.Y. Hilton finally got in the end zone. I think we’re rounding third on his time in Indianapolis (a free-agent-to-be this offseason), and as someone who really enjoyed watching him play here, I’ll miss that. This was one of those games where you burn the tape, then dump the ashes in the White River so mutant fish can eat them.

NM: Every basketball game I played in college was a “burn the tape, dump the ashes” game. I AM Rock Ya-Sin. I suck more than words can express. I know this feeling all too well, but I’m worried that you two don’t. I’m going to put this in layman’s terms: sometimes EVERYONE in the game is way better than you—physically, mentally, in every other way possible—and they just kick the shit out of you. (WELCOME TO BEING ME!!!) Dereks, it happens. Then the sun rises, and life goes on, and you’re writing Colts shit on a snowy Monday morning. Just to go back to the beginning: we’re all super lucky to be where we are, even though we’re all in different places. I’m probably the only one wearing CVS sweatpants, though.   

DS: One of the Dereks—I’m not going to say which one—is a career .000 hitter in Little League and was 9*-57 in his career as a high school wrestler (*four wins by forfeit – opposing school had no wrestler available at the 119 pound weight class). So, yeah, I… er, I mean, one of us… knows exactly what it’s like to suck more than words express. The good news is the Colts don’t suck, and hopefully, will get back to not sucking next week against Houston.

DR: What an appropriate lesson for the Colts to impart to us as 2020 comes to a close: Sometimes it’s okay to just be absolutely outclassed, to have your ass thoroughly kicked and then to get up and go back to work the next morning regardless. Something tells me this experience will have put a little extra fight in them against Watson and co. next Sunday, I’m looking forward to it.