INDIANAPOLIS – What a comeback.
And what a finish.
The Titans exploded for two touchdowns in the closing minutes to pull out a massive 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. It capped a run of 24 unanswered points to close out the game for the resurgent Titans, who stumbled early before regaining their footing late.
“I’m really proud of the guys for the way we fought, and the way we finished,” cornerback Logan Ryan said. “A lot of folks said we couldn’t win here, and that the Colts had our number. Well, we came in here and believed we could win today, and that’s why we won. We found a way. It wasn’t always pretty, but we found a way.”
The rally started with huge play on special teams, which changed the game.
Titans defensive back Tye Smith scooped up a field goal blocked Dane Cruikshank and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown, which gave the Titans a 24-17 lead with 5:02 left.
“I caught it and just kept running,” Smith said. “It was surreal (when I scored). I was so happy.”
Then, after an interception by Ryan, the Titans scored again, this time on a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to receiver Kalif Raymond, which made it 31-17 with 3:02 left.
“We knew it was going to be a shot, an opportunity,” Raymond said of the play call. “And when I made my cut, I had a feeling the ball was going to be there, and it was. Shout-out to Ryan for throwing a beautiful pass. (When I scored) I was about to cry, man. I was literally saying prayers and feeling so thankful.
“To make the play, it feels great. And the feeling is magnified when you get a W. To help this team win, it’s awesome.”
The Titans improved to 7-5 with the win, and the team has now won five of its last six games.
Tannehill completed 17-of-22 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the game, and the Titans are now 5-1 in his starts.
Running back Derrick Henry finished the game with 149 yards and a touchdown -- a 13-yard touchdown score on a fourth-and-one in the third quarter, which sparked the second half comeback. Henry has now produced three straight 100-yard rushing games for the Titans after racking up 188 yards and 159, respectively, in back-to-back wins over the Chiefs and Jaguars.
Henry now has 1,140 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns on the season.
“I loved (the way we finished),” Henry said. “We played with resiliency in all phases and we believed in each other. And we knew we would make a big play at some point in the game. We knew it was going to be a physical matchup, and glad we were able to get the win.”
It was a shaky start for the Titans, who lost two fumbles in the first quarter and trailed 10-7 at halftime. Tannehill was sacked five times in the first half, but only once in the second half.
After Henry’s fumble on the team’s first offensive possession, the Colts quickly cashed it on for a 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass from quarterback Jacoby Brissett to tight end Jack Doyle.
The Titans answered back with a 75-yard scoring drive, converting three third downs along the way, including one a Tannehill pass to Adam Humphries that went for a 13-yard touchdown to time the game at 7-7.
The Titans were in danger of falling behind further after Tannehill lost a fumble while being sacked, but Titans defensive lineman Austin Johnson blocked a long field goal try by Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who missed another long try minutes earlier. A 28-yard field goal by Vinatieri gave the Colts a 10-7 lead with 6:07 left in the second quarter, and that remained the score at halftime.
The Colts jumped out to a 17-7 lead early in the third quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Nyheim Hines before the Titans answered back with the 75-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by Henry’s 13-yard touchdown run.
On the Colts next possession, Titans linebacker Harold Landry forced Brissett into a bad throw, and Titans safety Kevin Byard intercepted the pass and returned it to the Indianapolis 14-yard line. The momentum was clearly turning.
The Titans cashed that turnover in for three points, as kicker Ryan Succop’s 31-yard field goal tied the game at 17-17 with 4:26 left in the third quarter.
And that set the stage for the wild finish.
“When we win, I am ecstatic for the players, that they can enjoy it,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “Now we have to stay focused and get ready to come back to work.”
The Titans face the Raiders next Sunday in Oakland.
The team has four games left, including two against the Houston Texans as the race to win the AFC South heads into the home stretch.
“I think this was a must-win,” Byard said of the team’s win over the Colts. “We had to have this one. But honestly, every game moving forward, we have to treat like a playoff game. We have to get as may wins as we can to put ourselves in a position to win the division.”
The Tennessee Titans take on the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13 of the 2019 season at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)