The Tennessee Titans beat the Patriots 34-10 just one week ago. So of course, they got absolutely embarrassed by the 4-5 Indianapolis Colts just seven days later. Don’t you just love the NFL?!
Just like Tennessee’s win last week wasn’t a fluke, neither was the Colts’ victory on Sunday. It’s all about matchups, and Indy’s game-plan specifically attacked what the Titans like to do as a defense.
One of the Titans’ tendencies is to bring blitzes inside. So how did the Colts game-plan for this? They ran the ball to the outside several times early in the game. Then, they used play-action off of those runs to attack the Titans’ second-level defenders.
Watch the design of the below play. The Titans happened to bring an inside blitz. With five pass rushers attacking Andrew Luck, fewer defenders were left in coverage. The Titans were thinner in the underneath middle of the field as a result.
The Colts exacerbated this by using that outside-run play-action to stretch the defense horizontally and create even bigger passing windows inside.
Also notice how Indy put their big-bodied tight ends inside, creating a mismatch against Tennessee’s smaller safeties and corners. With no help defenders inside, the result was an easy pitch and catch for Andrew Luck and tight end Jack Doyle.
Play-action was definitely one component the Colts were focused on against the Titans. Luck’s 68-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton in the 2nd quarter came off of play-action. Watch the deep safety bite hard on Luck’s play-fake, leaving Hilton in a pure 1-on-1 matchup against Adoree’ Jackson.
This touchdown put the Colts up 17-0 and broke the game open.
The Colts didn’t stop with the play-action there, though. On their next drive, they turned Tennessee’s over aggressiveness into an easy 20-yard completion to set up yet another touchdown.
Watch the Titans’ underneath defenders bite hard on the play action and then immediately turn and sprint downfield to hunt up Colts receivers, afraid of getting burned deep once again. No one accounted for running back Nyheim Hines coming out of the backfield, though.
From the end-zone angle, you can get an even better look at the Titans’ underneath defenders completely turning their backs to Luck.
Andrew Luck has really hit his stride during the Colts’ 4-game winning streak (74.1 Comp Pct, 977 yards, 13 TD, 1 INT, 135.2 QB Rating). His ball placement was on the money against Tennessee. He also did a good job of moving in the pocket and keeping a downfield focus against what little pressure he did face. This enabled several second-chance throws.
How about that protection, though? With few exceptions, Luck was not under duress at all on Sunday. The Colts’ offensive line kept him clean by winning their individual matchups consistently and handling any blitz pressure. They have now gone five straight games without allowing a sack. We were high on that offensive line early in the season, and we continue to be.
Between the O-line, Frank Reich’s stellar game-planning, and Luck’s execution, the Colts suddenly look like a playoff team after a 1-5 start.