Though the Indianapolis Colts have some issues to deal with after their latest performance, they might pale by comparison to the one the Tennessee Titans must overcome.
With quarterback Jake Locker out for the season, backup Ryan Fitzpatrick looks to help the struggling Titans avoid a fourth straight loss to the visiting Colts on Thursday night.
If losing 29-27 at home Sunday to previously winless Jacksonville wasn't bad enough, Tennessee (4-5) lost Locker when he suffered a Lisfranc injury to his right foot in the second quarter. Limited to 18 career starts because of injuries, Locker could need surgery.
The focus now shifts to Fitzpatrick as he tries to help turn around a team that's lost four of five, is two games behind AFC South-leading Indianapolis (6-3) and hoping to avoid its first four-game home losing streak since 2005.
"We're just concentrating on these seven weeks," coach Mike Munchak said. "That's all we're concerned about. Next year is next year (with Locker). Right now we just got to go forward and try to win a game."
Tennessee has dropped eight of nine to the Colts, who it will face twice in three weeks. The Titans' lone win during that stretch came at home, 27-10 on Oct. 30, 2011.
Fitzpatrick completed 54.3 percent of his passes with a touchdown and four interceptions while starting for the injured Locker in consecutive losses to Kansas City and Seattle last month. He was 22 of 33 for 264 yards with two TDs, no picks and ran for a score in relief Sunday.
"When it's your turn to step up, you've got to step up and play, and that's where we're at," said tight end Delanie Walker, who had four receptions for a season-high 62 yards and a 14-yard TD with 40 seconds remaining Sunday.
"He's going to be the starting quarterback from now on because Jake is out for the year, so Ryan has no choice but to play (well). I feel like he did a great job against the Jaguars. This is his opportunity to be the man now."
Fitzpatrick could use some help from Chris Johnson, who ran 12 times for 30 yards against a Jacksonville team that came in surrendering an NFL-worst 161.8 rushing yards per contest.
Johnson, who gained 150 and scored twice in a 28-21 win at St. Louis on Nov. 3, has been held to 39 or fewer rushing yards five times in a six-game stretch. He's averaged 54.2 yards per game and 3.0 per carry without a TD in his last five against the Colts.
After turning the ball over a season-high four times Sunday, the Titans have committed 13 in five games following a 3-1 start where they didn't have any.
Indianapolis has forced one or no turnovers in three of four games, and committed a season-high five during Sunday's 38-8 home loss to St. Louis. Andrew Luck threw three interceptions to match his total from the season's first eight games and the Colts allowed Rams rookie Tavon Austin to score on a 98-yard punt return and pass plays of 57 and 81 yards.
"I think all we want is to never play like that again," tight end Coby Fleener said. "The feeling after that game was just disgust."
Luck threw for a season-high 353 yards, but one touchdown and was sacked three more times, including one he fumbled and returned for a Rams TD. Luck did run for 17 of the team's 18 rushing yards.
Trent Richardson gained two yards on five attempts, and has averaged 2.8 per carry while not running for more than 60 yards in any of his seven games since being acquired from Cleveland on Sept. 18.
Indianapolis has been held to 74 or fewer rushing yards in three of the last four contests. Tennessee ranks 21st allowing 114.9 rushing yards per game but held the Jaguars to 54.
"We realized how important the run game is to our success," Luck told the Colts' official website. "We'll improve, and we're looking forward to the Titans."
Defensively, Indianapolis has allowed at least 24 points in four of the last five games and five TD passes of at least 31 yards in the last three.
"Certainly we're not going to bury our head in the sand on this past ball game," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "We'll address the issues like we always address them. We know there are things that need to be fixed and we'll go to work on fixing those things."
Luck's 16-yard touchdown pass to Vick Ballard gave the Colts a 19-13 overtime win at Tennessee last season. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes with two TDs and three INTs while Indianapolis won both 2012 meetings by a combined 10 points.
The Associated Press News Service
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