Tennessee Titans hold off Indianapolis Colts in AFC South opener

INDIANAPOLIS — The Tennessee Titans finished what they started Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

It didn't come without a scare, but the Titans, who jumped to a 21-point lead in the first half, were able to hold on for a 24-17 win in their AFC South opener.

The Titans (2-2) have been outscored 64-7 in the second half this season. They led 24-10 at halftime against the Colts (1-2-1), before a humming offense went dormant.

TITANS REPORT CARDMaking sense of offense's 'A' first half, 'F' second half

SECOND-HALF STRUGGLESTennessee Titans 'have nowhere near played our best four quarters'

The Colts closed the gap to 24-17 midway through the third quarter on a short pass from Matt Ryan to Mo Alie-Cox, then got into scoring position in the final three minutes. The Titans defense finally held Indianapolis, with help from a Denico Autry sack, and the Colts missed a 51-yard field goal to nix the chance of any dramatics.

Derrick Henry’s return

Derrick Henry rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, marking a triumphant return to the place that ended his season in 2021.

Henry suffered a fractured foot in last season's overtime win at the Colts on Oct. 31, 2021, and didn't return until the playoffs.

Henry showed no signs of slowing down Sunday. He came out strong to set up the Titans' first touchdown, then scored on a season-best 19-yard TD run as Tennessee threatened a rout. Henry had a 22-yard catch on the second scoring series that helped set up his touchdown.

Henry has rushed for at least 100 yards in five of his past six games against the Colts.

He reached 7,000 career rushing yards on his second carry of the day, a 12-yard lateral from Ryan Tannehill.

Henry, in his seventh season, became the fourth back in franchise history to reach the milestone, joining Eddie George (10,009 yards rushing), Earl Campbell (8,574) and Chris Johnson (7,965.).

Battle of the backs

The chatter in the preseason was whether Colts running back Jonathan Taylor had supplanted Henry as the NFL's premier rusher, after leading the league in rushing yardage in 2021 and opening this season with a 161-yard performance against the Houston Texans.

The Titans came into the game ranked 29th against the rush and were without linebacker Zach Cunningham and safety Amani Hooker. Still, Taylor struggled to get going, finishing with 42 yards on 20 carries.

He was held to short gains on most of his carries throughout the first half and limited by injury late in the second half.

Treylon Burks injured

Titans rookie receiver Treylon Burks was helped off the field early in the fourth quarter after injuring his foot.

The first-round draft pick had made a big catch deep in Titans territory. He was hurt two plays later.

Burks was carted to the locker room after making it to the sideline and did not return. He had three catches for 14 yards.

Shaquille Leonard not a factor

Colts All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard, after missing the first three games while rehabilitating from offseason back surgery, was upgraded to questionable Friday.

Colts coach Frank Reich said before the game if Leonard was able to play he wouldn’t be at 100%.

That turned out to be the case. Leonard allowed Titans receiver Robert Woods to get behind him on a short route deep in Colts territory, and Woods caught a 9-yard touchdown pass on Tennessee’s opening drive − his first since joining the franchise in the offseason.

Leonard made a couple of tackles before leaving the game with a concussion.

Caleb Farley's performance

Cornerback Caleb Farley, a former first-round pick by the Titans, played only one snap last week against the Las Vegas Raiders. He was replaced by Terrance Mitchell, who had been signed off the New England practice squad four days earlier.

Farley said he remained confident he would get another shot, and it came early Sunday. Mitchell started along with Roger McCreary and Kristian Fulton in the nickel. Farley then split time with Mitchell backing up McCreary.

Farley was credited with three tackles. The problem with that was that two of those tackles came after the receiver Farley was covering made a catch.

Also in the secondary, Andrew Adams got his first start at safety in place of Amani Hooker, who was out with a neck injury. Adams, who signed with the Titans in Week 3 off the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad, recorded five tackles.

Missed opportunity

The Titans missed the chance to stretch their halftime lead when they failed to get the field goal team on the field as time expired.

On a third-and-1, Tannehill scrambled out of the backfield for no gain.

With six seconds left in the half and the Titans out of timeouts, the field goal unit was unable to get set as time expired.

Locals out

The Titans were without three players – inside linebacker Zach Cunningham, and defensive backs Ugo Amadi and Theo Jackson – with local connections.

Cunningham, who played at Vanderbilt, was out with an elbow injury.

Amadi (Overton High School) was out with injury, and Jackson, who played at Overton and the University of Tennessee, was on the inactive list.

Also on the inactive list was linebackers Ola Adeniyi (neck), Wyatt Ray and offensive lineman Le’Raven Clark, who signed Tuesday off the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad.

Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee Titans hold off Indianapolis Colts in AFC South opener