INDIANAPOLIS -- If there ever was a time for Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard to validate why he gave up a first-round pick in a trade for defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, it was Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Buckner might have been uttering words not suitable for children to hear as Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry ran around, through and any other imaginable way in leading the Titans to a 45-26 victory. Henry rushed for 178 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.
The loss dropped Indianapolis to second place in the AFC South, a game behind the Titans, to muddle its chances to make the playoffs.
The Colts entered the game depleted on defense. Buckner was ruled out after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last week. Fellow defensive lineman Denico Autry also is on the list and linebacker Bobby Okereke missed the game with an ankle injury.
All three play a significant role on defense, but Buckner was the biggest loss of the group because he has been responsible for anchoring the middle of the defensive line. The Colts went into Sunday giving up an average of just 3.18 yards a rush, which was third in the NFL, with Buckner. The Titans averaged 5.6 yards a rush Sunday.
That’s why Ballard didn’t hesitate to give up the No. 13 pick in this year’s draft to San Francisco, and then he immediately gave Buckner a new, four-year, $84 million contract. It’s unknown how long Buckner will be out of the lineup due to COVID-19. Players who test positive for the coronavirus can’t return to the team until at least 10 days after the start of symptoms, plus at least 24 hours after symptoms have passed.
The Colts have allowed a 100-yard rusher just three times since Week 15 of the 2017 season.
Who is responsible for those three games?
The Colts' fast, aggressive approach on defense was no match for Henry’s combination of power and speed. He had already topped 100 rushing yards by halftime and the Titans had a 35-14 lead at intermission. His 96 yards before contact in the first half were the most the Colts had allowed to any player in the past three seasons.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The Colts had better hope left tackle Anthony Castonzo’s knee injury won’t keep him out for an extended period because they’re going to have some serious issues at that position if that’s the case.
Castonzo left the game early in the second quarter after getting hit on his knee on a quarterback keeper by Jacoby Brissett.
Le'Raven Clark replaced Castonzo at left tackle and that’s when the game changed offensively for the Colts.
The Titans became like sharks smelling blood in the water. They upped the pressure, causing Colts quarterback Philip Rivers to get rid of the ball quicker, which completely disrupted the flow of the offense.
The Colts picked up 11 first downs, gained 150 yards and scored two touchdowns on the two drives that Castonzo was in the game. They scored only 12 more points, gained 186 yards, had a turnover and punted five times in 10 drives without their starting left tackle.
Troubling trend: It's going to be a rough film session for Colts cornerback Rock Ya-Sin.
Ya-Sin was called for two penalties on third down, which extended the series, on the Titans' first two drives of the game. Both of those drives ended with the Titans scoring a touchdown.
Ya-Sin struggled so much that he was replaced by T.J. Carrie in the secondary for a stretch in the game. Ya-Sin has been called for a team-high six penalties this season.