(SportsRadio 610) -- The Indianapolis Colts had not given up 35 points to an opponent all season when they hosted the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Their defense had ranked toward the NFL’s best in most categories, widely lauded as one of the top unit’s in the league.
Then the Titans picked the Colts apart, going for 35 points just in the first half. Tennessee won at the line of scrimmage, and running back Derrick Henry had 178 rushing yards on three touchdowns.
But caution on thinking the Colts’ defense is regressing. It’s still among the elite.
They rarely give up big plays on the ground and only four teams have given up fewer touchdowns through the air.
“They were short-handed and I think that’s the main thing,” Texans interim head coach Romeo Crennel said Monday afternoon when asked about the Colts defense. “I think being short-handed probably impacted them mentally. And then once Tennessee got ahead in the game, it was tough sledding for them. I think if they had their guys, I think they feel like they would’ve done a lot better.”
Not just short-handed, but without defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, Denico Autry and linebacker Bobby Okereke. That’s three of their top six players in tackles for loss, including their sack leader in Audry and possibly their best defensive player in Buckner.
Autry and Buckner had tested positive for COVID-19, but could both return for Sunday’s game against the Texans.
Crennel on Monday lauded the Colts’ defensive front, especially, and the discipline with which they play on the front and back ends.
“They don’t do a tremendous amount, but they are aggressive in what they do. And because of that aggression, a lot of times plays don’t work because they are into the backfield. They are creating piles. So a play that is designed to go off tackle, now has to go out and try to get around. And they’ve got enough speed that they can run to the ball and make tackles. So I think they’ve been doing a good job with that whole defense all year and I don’t know that I would count this past game against them.
“I would say, if I’m looking at their defense, I might put this past game on the back burner and say ‘let’s look at all these other games where they’re first and second in the NFL.’ And that’s what we’re going to see Sunday.”