Titans’ plans change with Colts looking up
Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011 7:02 pm
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tennessee spent most of the past decade chasing the front-running Colts.
Whether it was surprise onside kicks, smashmouth football or any other delaying tactic, the Titans’ object was simple: Keep Peyton Manning off the field and the Colts out of the playoffs.
That’s not a problem this season.
After winning seven division titles and making the playoffs nine straight years since the AFC South was created in 2002, Manning’s season-long absence has completely flipped the division.
Tennessee is now chasing a playoff spot, while the winless Colts try to salvage something from this dismal season.
“They would like nothing better than to put us out of the playoffs,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We have been in that role sometimes, and I’m sure that there is nothing better than to win their first game, but also to put a big dent in us as to making the playoffs.”
Actually, Indy (0-13) has plenty of reasons to be motivated this weekend.
The Colts are trying to end a 50-week winless streak that dates to a 23-20 victory Jan. 2 against — who else? — Tennessee. They are trying to avoid the first 0-14 record in franchise history, the first 0-7 home mark since 1991, the first loss to the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium and they don’t even want to ponder clinching the No. 1 overall draft pick this weekend.
A Colts loss and wins by St. Louis and Minnesota would assure Indy of the worst record in the league.
Knocking out all those dubious distinctions this week, and perhaps helping coach Jim Caldwell save his job, would be a welcome relief. Doing all that against an old division rival would be even sweeter.
“You never really want to be in that situation where that’s all you have to play for is to spoil someone else’s chances,” Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. “But I do know what we’re trying to do is win, and obviously, doing that would spoil something for them. We’re not going out there saying, ‘Let’s spoil their chances.’ No, we’re thinking about winning.”
Nobody has been more successful against AFC South teams than the Colts, who are one loss away from posting their first losing sub-.500 against division foes since 2001.
Indy had been so dominant in division play that former coach Jeff Fisher once donned a Manning jersey, telling the crowd he did it because he wanted to feel like a winner. Without Manning, the Colts still haven’t won a game and are in danger of joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only 0-16 teams in league history.
Worse, the Colts haven’t even come close to ending this skid.
Their three lowest games, in net yardage, have all come since Nov. 6 including a season-low 167 last week at Baltimore. Indy has not led in a game since blowing a 17-point edge against Kansas City on Oct. 9, and the Colts have been outscored 55-6 in the first three quarters over the past two weeks.
Published in The Messenger 12.16.11