Harris and the Colts top Butler’s Titans in NFL matchup of Vicksburg natives
Published 12:18 am Friday, November 13, 2020
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Coaches and quarterbacks change for the Indianapolis Colts. What remains the same is they keep beating Tennessee in its own building.
Philip Rivers threw for 308 yards and a touchdown, and Nyheim Hines scored twice as the Colts trounced the Titans 34-17 Thursday night to grab the head-to-head edge atop the AFC South.
The Colts (6-3) will host the rematch in Indianapolis on Nov. 29 after helping coach Frank Reich improve to 4-1 against Titans coach Mike Vrabel. Indianapolis is 14-5 at Nissan Stadium.
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“We get a huge special teams touchdown and then offensively, shoot, we were rolling pretty good all day,” Rivers said after picking up his first victory in this series. “We were very balanced, kind of got in a rhythm with the no-huddle. This was a huge road division win.”
The game was the first head-to-head meeting between Vicksburg natives DeMichael Harris and Malcolm Butler. Harris, a rookie wide receiver, was signed from the practice squad to the active roster earlier this week, while Butler is in his third season as a cornerback with the Titans.
The two did not match up often on the field because of the Colts’ formations. Harris finished with one reception for 21 yards, converting a third down late in the first half that led to a Colts field goal. Butler had six total tackles and one pass defense.
Indianapolis came in with the NFL’s best defense in terms of fewest yards allowed. The Colts smothered a Tennessee offense that had been averaging 384.6 yards per game, 10th-best in the league, and ranked seventh averaging 29 points. E.J. Speed also blocked a punt that T.J. Carrie returned 6 yards for a TD late in the third quarter.
The Colts outgained Tennessee 430-294, though Derrick Henry ran for 103 yards.
The Titans (6-3) lost for the third time in four games as they head into the toughest stretch of their season, with Indianapolis the first of four straight opponents currently with winning records. The teams play again Nov. 29 in Indianapolis.
Tennessee led 17-13 at halftime. Indianapolis took advantage of the Titans’ special teams woes to score twice in the third quarter for a 27-17 lead.
The Titans went with a third different punter in three games, promoting Trevor Daniel after signing him to the practice squad last weekend. Daniel’s first punt went 17 yards, and Hines scored four plays later on a 2-yard TD run. The Titans gave Daniel no help on his second, with Speed easily breaking through for the block.
Stephen Gostkowski then missed a 44-yard field goal wide right early in the fourth.
“We’re going to have to evaluate everything that we do,” Vrabel said.
The Colts padded their lead to 34-17 with backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett capping the next drive with a 2-yard TD run with 9:21 left.
Indianapolis’ final margin would’ve been larger, but the Colts settled for a 43-yard field goal at the end of the first half and the Titans forced a turnover on downs on Indianapolis’ opening drive of the third.
“We finished the way we needed to finish,” Reich said.
Hines finished with 12 carries for 70 yards and a TD, and caught five passes for 45 more yards and another TD. He called this his best birthday ever.
“I’ve never had a game like this on my birthday, so my 24th birthday is going to be one I’m always going to remember,” Hines said. “I knew one thing: I didn’t want to settle for average, I wanted to play great. ”