Colts offense vs. Titans defense
Andrew Luck is coming off his worst game as a pro. He isn’t alone. For most Colts players, last week’s loss to the Rams is one where you simply burn the tape and move on. The Titans didn’t burn that tape, though. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray (who shares duties with Gregg Williams) used to run a zone-based scheme similar to the one St. Louis runs under Jeff Fisher. While Tennessee has been blitz-happier this season, Gray loves game-planning around a four-man pass rush. He doesn’t quite have the horses that Fisher has, but defensive end Derrick Morgan has played well the past two weeks and tackle Jurrell Casey, who stands out for his initial quickness and block-shedding acumen, is having a Pro Bowl season.
The Titans likely will refrain from major blitzing and first see if Morgan and Casey can take advantage of the Colts’ athletically mediocre O-line. If they can, it will be an uphill battle for Luck. The Colts’ running game right now is nonexistent (Trent Richardson can’t change directions), while Luck’s receiving corps is still trying to reconfigure itself in Reggie Wayne’s absence (it would help if Coby Fleener started making contested catches). With stud boundary corners Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner, plus newly interchangeable safeties Michael Griffin and Bernard Pollard, this Titans secondary is not an easy one to get on track against.
Titans offense vs. Colts defense
The Colts did not play all that poorly on defense last Sunday. The Rams made them pay dearly on a few aberrational man coverage snafus. Aside from five or six plays there, the Colts dominated, particularly against the Rams’ man-blocking interior running game. The Titans feature more of a zone-blocking outside ground game, as Chris Johnson can be counted on to cut it back toward open space whenever it’s there. If linebackers Pat Angerer and Jerrell Freeman attack with the same vigor as they did last Sunday, Johnson will be a nonfactor.
In the passing game, Tennessee likes to get Nate Washington and Kendall Wright (especially) on crossing patterns. Indianapolis has been playing more man coverage this season, though they’ve had a bit of trouble against horizontal routes, especially when pre-snap motion is involved. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains knows those tactics are tough to defend, and he uses them regularly.
The Colts might consider employing more press-Cover 3 (i.e. a Seahawks style defense) or Cover 4 (aka quarters). Both schemes have man-to-man principles on the outside, and zone principles for linebackers and safeties inside. Those zones could disrupt a lot of Tennessee’s route designs. Additionally, playing zone would allow inside defenders to keep their eyes on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, which is important given his proclivity to scramble and take chances with throws into coverage.