That’s what we look for in Week 17, any eyebrow raises from an expected outcome, one week before the playoffs commence.
Of course the Colts won another AFC South Division game. Their 13-game division winning streak is the longest active run in the NFL.
And you never got the sense that the Colts were seriously threatened after taking an early lead. The Titans (2-14) have lost 10 in a row. They’re on their third quarterback. They looked the part of a team that tied Tampa Bay for the NFL’s worst record. They get the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
The Colts finished 11-5 for a third consecutive season and improved to 14-1 in the regular season after a loss during coach Chuck Pagano’s three years. Pagano’s teams are 16-2 against the AFC South, 17-13 against everyone else.
In the interest of accentuating positives — we’ve repeated concerns for weeks now — let’s start with the tight ends. It was reassuring to see Coby Fleener catch a couple of TD passes and Jack Doyle grab his second score as a pro.
We don’t know yet if tight end Dwayne Allen will be able to play next weekend in the AFC Wild Card game at Lucas Oil Stadium. He’s got a sore knee. The playoffs typically mean all hands on deck, but it’s encouraging to see Fleener and Doyle make some plays. Fleener tied Allen for most touchdown receptions on the team with eight.
It was nice to see the Colts not turn the ball over, huh? That’s happened just three times this season. Not surprisingly, the Colts are 3-0 in those games. Everybody has harped on how the Colts had to clean up turnovers. They’ve committed 31. But they didn’t help out the Titans this day.
Matt Hasselbeck showed he’s the second-best AFC South quarterback when he subbed in for Andrew Luck in the second half. The Titans had made it a one-score game at 17-10, but Hasselbeck showed the kind of poise you would expect from a 16th-year pro, constantly correcting teammates so they lined up properly, and guiding the team to two important scoring drives to put the game away.
Rookie outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome had two of the Colts’ four sacks to bump his total to 6.5, which edges outside linebacker Erik Walden for the team lead. There’s no disputing Newsome has pass-rush skills. His third-down, blind-side tackle of quarterback Charlie Whitehurst limited the Titans to a field goal when it was 17-7 in the third quarter.
Adam Vinatieri showed he’s not perfect, although the NFL’s oldest player at 42 (his birthday was Sunday) is still pretty darned good. His field-goal streak of 35 ended when he pulled a 46-yard field goal wide left. I’d still take him over any kicker in the league when it comes to a field goal you must have.
The Colts’ run defense allowed 142 yards, which is unacceptable. Shonn Greene gained 52 of his 94 on one rush. That’s obviously a concern for next week, but it’s been mentioned before.
That said, the Colts allowed just 10 points, and that’s the most important defensive statistic.
The Colts didn’t run the ball well, gaining 64 yards on 30 carries, an average of 2.1 per carry. Dan Herron had 35 yards on 10 carries. Those were team highs. Third-back Zurlon Tipton gained 21 yards on nine carries. Trent Richardson had 11 yards on six carries.
The lack of a consistent run game is still disturbing, to say the least. And that’s been constantly beat into the ground, too.
While No. 1 wide receiver T.Y. Hilton played on a sore left hamstring, he wasn’t needed nor utilized much. He didn’t have a catch, just the second time that’s happened in 49 career games. But the Colts were smart to shut him down as the game unfolded. They need this guy to be able to make plays in the postseason.
We saw enough injuries to be concerned about the health of this team for the next game. A.Q. Shipley (ankle) and Hugh Thornton (knee) each exited early after playing offensive left guard. That meant rookie center Jonotthan Harrison filled in.
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne tweaked a groin as he was legging out the longest pass reception of his 14-year career, an 80-yard gain in the second quarter. You hope Wayne will be OK. Again, the Colts need everybody now.
Seriously, this game turned out to be a matter-of-fact, routine performance against a weak division foe. Sure, it was important for the Colts to get a win after last week’s 42-7 loss at Dallas, but we’ll stop short of gushing too much.
The playoffs start now for this team. That’s when the Colts must prove something. There’s no need to show anything more against the AFC South.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.