Week 11 did not fail to disappoint for the AFC South. What more can you ask for than two games decided by a total of five points and a statement win in the other game. We saw two teams step up in a big way in virtual loser leaves town games. We saw a team pull out a win despite not playing well and we had another team have a week that usually only happens in a head coaches worse nightmares.
Let’s take a look at what happened in Week 11 and the takeaways.
Indianapolis Colts 38 vs. Tennessee Titans 10
This game had all the makings of being a tight back-and-forth affair but that ended fairly quickly. The Titans looked effective moving the ball against the Patriots last week. However, they never really settled in this week. Their first drive somehow only managed to go 33 yards despite there being 10 plays. The next four drives totaled 30 yards with three punts and an interception. By the time they made into Colts territory for a second time they were trailing 24-0. Then on their final drive of the half Marcus Mariota appeared to injure his elbow and was unable to return. At that point a game that was as good a over could have officially had a fork put in it. Mariota and Blaine Gabbert combined for just 176 passing yards and the team rushed for just 87 yards on 25 carries.
The defense did not fair much better but their are some extenuating circumstance. In the first quarter defensive coordinator Dean Peas was taken to hospital ill. I can not begin to imagine how you deal with that as a player and their below standard performance from then on is completely understandable.
The Colts did an amazing job on both sides of the ball. They sacked Marcus Mariota four times in under a half and added another sack on Gabbert. They also stifled the run game effectively and in total had 9.5 tackles for loss and seven QB hits. The defense managed to keep Corey Davis quiet after his two big weeks and that is a key to beating this Titans team. On offense they were equally superb. They started slowly but they opened the taps in the second quarter, scoring 17 points and at one point leading 24-0.
The run game averaged just 3.6 yards per carry but against this Titans defense that was to be expected. Therefore, the burden of expectation fell on Andrew Luck, and he delivered. Luck completed 23-of-29 passes for 297 yards with three touchdowns. He extended two impressive streaks in this game as well. Firstly, he went to seven straight games of three or more passing touchdowns. The second streak is extremely impressive. In his first 70 games Luck was sacked an average of 2.2 times per game. This season that average is down to 1.1 and he has not been sacked for five straight games. That is extremely impressive considering we thought Luck was going to be lucky to survive the year behind a new offensive line. It is a big part of their transformation from bottom-dweller to playoff contender.
Both teams sit at 5-5 after this game and two games out of the division lead. However, if Mariota is out for any extended period of time then they are in trouble. Mariota is said to have a “stinger” but the numbness in his hand leaves him seeking a second opinion. There is hope he will be back for Monday’s game against the Texans and if he is then the Titans have a chance to move one game behind the Texans with a win.
For the Colts the takeaway is they have a great offense right now and a solid defense. Their offense is capable of doing it both through the air and on the ground when they need to. Their defense is capable of doing enough to help them win games without being spectacular. They still have a realistic shot at this division but they need to be perfect and they need help from someone beating the Texans. If they keep playing like this then nobody will want to face them in the playoffs.
Houston Texans 23 @ Washington Redskins 21
The Houston Texans got extremely lucky once again this game. Deshaun Watson struggled, going 16-of-24 for 208 passing yards with one touchdown and an interception. The run game was fine, averaging 4.5 yards per carry on 31 carries. Effective but not blowing anyone away. DeAndre Hopkins lost a fumble to go with Watson’s interceptions and despite the Redskins losing Alex Smith to an horrific leg injury they still nearly blew it at the end of the game.
The Redskins offense was almost an inept as we expected. Smith threw two interceptions, including a 101-yard pick six for Justin Reid, which was essentially the difference in this game. The offense almost seemed to move the ball more effectively with Colt McCoy under center. Smith’s injury was horrific and I wish him all the best but in his mid-30s I have serious concern this could be a career ending injury for him. Adrian Peterson averaged just 3.1 yards per rush but did find the end zone twice. This was a game of field position battle and despite everything the Redskins had a shot to win it at the end.
Houston Nearly Blows It
The Texans final drive stalled at the Redskins 27 with 56 seconds remaining in the game. Now a 45-yard kick is not that difficult but leading by one, with the Redskins having no time outs and outdoors on the road it was a silly risk. Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the kick handing the Redskin the ball on their own 35-yard line with 52 second to play with. However, McCoy was only able to get the ball to the the Texans 45-yard line where Dustin Hopkins failed with a 63-yard game winning kick. It worked out fine in the end but the better strategic play would have been to punt the ball down inside the 10 and force the Redskins to go 50-plus yards to win the game. In a way it was a positive play call and that should be applauded but sometimes positive play calling is not the best option.
Jacksonville Jaguars 16 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 20
The Jaguars did everything right for close to three quarters and then it all fell apart. They controlled the clock, running the ball 41 times for 179 yards and a touchdown. They kept the ball out of Blake Bortles hands and it so nearly worked. Bortles threw the ball 16 times for just 104 yards and was sacked six times so you can see why they Jaguars did not want to let him decide the game. However, this game was lost when the Jaguars continued to run with a stacked box deep in the fourth quarter when trying to put the game away.
The good news for the Jaguars is their defense played superbly, but you cannot stop the Steelers scoring 20 points with the way the riles are now. Eventually they will make plays and you need to play to win on offense as well as defense. The defense simply could not have done more and this will not decrease the frustration in that Jaguars locker room.
- Any glimpse of hope the Jaguars had is gone.
- The Titans are now in a situation where they have to win against the Texans in Week 12. Lose and they will be three games back with just five games remaining.
- The Colts need one favor and then their destiny is in their own hands. How much does Frank Reich wish he had that fourth down play call back in the over time game against the Texans?!
- The Texans need to play better but for now they are winning while playing badly. However, they cannot afford to lose any game other than the Colts one. If the Colts win out and the teams have the same record then Indianapolis would have the tie breaker based on divisional record.
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