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Notebook: Titans Aim to Prevent Bounce Back from Colts

Posted Nov 13, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said he saw what he considers an aberration in reviewing the Colts’ 38-8 loss last week to the Rams.

Gray said it’s a sign of the significant impact turnovers can have on a game. A sack fumble forced by Robert Quinn and recovered by Chris Long, who returned it 45 yards for a touchdown tilted momentum toward St. Louis and the Rams never let go.

“I wouldn’t look at the Rams game and say this is who the Indianapolis Colts are,” Gray said. “Those guys are good and I thought the Rams, getting four turnovers, the big one was the sack and caused fumble for a touchdown started it and it kind of snowballed. You really don’t do an Indianapolis Colts team like that as of late so you know that that’s really not who they are.”

Tennessee (4-5) hosts AFC South-leading Indianapolis (6-3) at LP Field on Thursday Night Football.

St. Louis used big offensive plays and a 98-yard punt return by Tavon Austin to build a 35-point lead, then intercepted Andrew Luck three times in the second half to prevent any hope of a comeback by the second-year pro who has 10 fourth-quarter rallies (an NFL-best since 1970 for a player in his first two seasons).  

The Titans expect Luck to bounce back. They witnessed two of those comebacks last season. Tennessee led 13-6 at home with less than four minutes left but lost in overtime, and led 20-7 at halftime and 23-21 with 10 minutes left in its visit to Indy.

“I thought we had them beat twice last year,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “(Andrew Luck) made some great plays to take those games off us. They have a quarterback that, no matter what the score is, can bring you back and win football games a lot in a short period of time.”

The Colts are working to fill the void of losing All-Pro receiver Reggie Wayne, who suffered a knee injury against Denver on Oct. 20. In two games without Wayne, Luck is 47-of-87 passing for 624 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions (passer rating of 77.9), compared to 136-of-224 for 1,574 yards with 10 TDs and three interceptions (passer rating of 91.3) in the seven games Wayne started.

The Colts fell behind 21-3 at halftime at Houston before storming back for a 27-24 win that was keyed with three TD passes from Luck to T.Y. Hilton (10, 58 and 9 yards) in the final 15:05, but were unable to do something similar last week.

“You’re talking about (replacing) a Hall of Fame receiver (Wayne). It’s tough,” Titans cornerback Jason McCourty said. “He’s a guy that brings so much. He moves around at all the receiver positions and runs every route in the playbook. Missing him was tough for them, and you’ve seen them start to adjust but it’s tough. Any team, when you lose one of your best players out there, it takes a little time to adjust, but you see T.Y. Hilton has stepped up huge for them, and (Darrius) Heyward-Bey is a guy that can stretch the field vertically, so they still have plenty of weapons that can get the job done.”

Alterraun Verner, who is tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions, said Wayne’s productivity and reliability are time-tested over his 13-year career.

“He made all the tough catches and did all the things Andrew Luck likes,” Verner said. “It’s tough to replace a guy like that, but the other guys have stepped up and made plays.”

TITANS WANT BOUNCE BACK TOO: Tennessee is looking to bounce back from a 29-27 home loss to Jacksonville in which the Titans suffered a season-high four turnovers.

Running back Chris Johnson said the feeling this week reminded him of last season when the Titans lost 30-7 at Minnesota but came back in the short week and defeated Pittsburgh 26-23.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a benefit physically, but mentally it’s a quick turnaround,” Johnson said. “You get a chance to forget about Jacksonville and move onto the Colts.”

Johnson said it’s quite clear to the Titans how important the game is to the standings in the AFC South and the playoff picture. Tennessee is one game out of the final Wild Card spot and wants to move within one game of the Colts, who they’ll visit Dec. 1.

“It’s very big when you’re speaking of the playoff picture,” Johnson said. “Any time you’ve got a division game, being that we just lost to Jacksonville and we’ve got the Colts two times in three weeks is going to be big for us if we can pull it off.”

STILL MEETING: Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said Jake Locker, who on Tuesday was placed on injured reserve with a season-ending foot injury, attended every install meeting as Ryan Fitzpatrick prepares for this third start as a Titan.

“It’s been a really tough week for (Locker), accepting that his season is done, but I talked to him and kind of had an end-of-season review with him and talked about the things I thought he got better at and the things he needs to work on,” Loggains said. “Overall, he made a huge stride this year, especially early on and before he got hurt, I thought he was going in the right direction and was really excited about the way he was playing. It’s disappointing because he did have a good year, and I thought that he was going to finish and have a really strong year.”

Locker was 69-of-111 passing (62.2 percent) for 721 yards with six passing touchdowns and no interceptions (passer rating of 99.0) in his first four starts of 2013 before suffering hip and knee sprains on Sept. 29 that cost him two starts. He worked his way back into the lineup, despite still requiring a knee brace, and finished his third pro season and second as Tennessee’s starter 111-of-183 (60.7 percent) for 1,256 yards with eight passing TDs and four interceptions (rating of 86.7).

That showed improvements over the 11 starts he made in 2012 when he battled through shoulder injuries and was 177-of-314 (56.4 percent) for 2,176 yards with 10 passing TDs and 11 interceptions (rating of 74.0).

INJURY REPORT: David Stewart (shoulder) fully participated in Tuesday’s practice and Wednesday’s walkthrough and is probable to return after missing the past two games. Chance Warmack (ankle) is listed as probable after fully participating the past two days. Zaviar Gooden (hamstring) is questionable. Moise Fokou (knee), Brian Schwenke (ankle), Damian Williams (hip) and Tommie Campbell (shoulder) are out. Colin McCarthy is expected to start for Fokou at middle linebacker, Chris Spencer is expected to replace Schwenke, and Devon Wylie, who was promoted from the practice squad this week, is expected to get a shot as Tennessee’s return specialist.

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