The 2018 Titans season sadly came to a close today as they lost (yet again) to the Colts to drop to 9-7 for the third straight season. It was a frustrating end to a rollercoaster season, but frankly there is still a lot to be excited about as a Titans fan heading into a big offseason for the franchise. We will have plenty of time to break those decisions down over the next few months, but for now, here are the winners and losers from Colts 33, Titans 17.
We will start with the most obvious winner. Brown was everywhere for the Titans in this game. He finished with 9 tackles, 2 passes broken up, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and an interception returned for a touchdown.
He’s going to finish the season 2nd on the team in tackles (97), 2nd on the team in tackles for loss (8), 2nd on the team in sacks (6), and 5th on the team in passes broken up. Brown has blown away expectations in his first two seasons and the Titans have to be thrilled with their situation at inside linebacker moving forward.
While Brown made the highlight plays, Woodyard was doing a lot of the dirty work between the tackles. He finished with 14 tackles which puts him at 113 tackles on the season. That number leads the Titans despite him missing most of the Eagles game and all of the Bills and Ravens games with an injury.
This is the first time in Woodyard’s career that he’s passed 100 tackles two seasons in a row. He’s continuing to play at a high level and I would hope he’s back next season even if his role is slightly reduced with the emergence of Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown at his position.
Henry did his part once again, turning 16 carries into 93 yards (5.8 yards per carry) while busting a couple big runs. His 33-yard run set up the Luke Stocker touchdown to pull the Titans within 7 late in the game and he also added a huge 3rd down catch on the following drive.
The performance put Henry over 1,000 yards for the season (1,059 to be exact) and into the top 10 among NFL running backs for the year. The Titans enter the 2019 offseason knowing who their bellcow back should be. Henry has been phenomenal down the stretch.
After an awful start to the season, Malcolm Butler largely turned into the guy the Titans were hoping he’d be over the last half of the season. He capped off the season with one of his better games, breaking up 2 passes (should’ve been 3 if not for that ticky tack pass interference call that gifted the Colts 7 points).
Butler finishes the season leading the team in passes broken up (12) and 2nd in interceptions (3). His season long PFF stats will probably still reflect rather poorly, but over the final 8 games Butler didn’t allow a touchdown and was leading all NFL corners in passer rating against from Week 10 to Week 16 at 31.7. That’s the kind of production Jon Robinson was hoping for when he gave Butler that big contract last offseason. The Titans should be in great shape at corner heading into 2019.
Landry added Andrew Luck to “The Honor Roll” with a crucial sack that helped get the Titans the ball back with a chance to go tie the game late. His rookie year finishes with sacks in back to back games, giving him something to build on during the offseason (the Titans should also be focused on trying to get him some help, but that’s an article for another day).
Harold Landry was a second-round pick pic.twitter.com/bw1VlwqC1X— Titans Film Room (@titansfilmroom) December 31, 2018
He will end up tied for 3rd on the team in sacks with 4.5 on the season, but he leads the team in QB hits with 14, showing how close he often was to getting home. A full offseason of work with Mike Vrabel and Shane Bowen should do him a world of good. The arrow is certainly pointing up for him heading into 2019.
Special teams sometimes doesn’t get enough credit, but they were big for the Titans tonight. Kern showed why he’s heading to his second straight Pro Bowl in this one, sending all 6 of his punts inside the 20 yard line. He was fantastic again this season.
Cruikshank had two huge special teams plays in this game. The first was the opening kick return when he nearly broke free, but ended up giving the Titans offense great starting field position (which they promptly squandered). He later would add a fantastic tackle on punt coverage to pin the Colts deep in their own territory.
We haven’t seen much of Cruikshank at safety so far, but he has Pro Bowl potential on special teams and that’s pretty good for a 5th round pick. If he can develop into a solid backup safety as well, that’s just gravy.
It probably doesn’t feel like the fans should be winners, but Titans fans showed up for this game and packed the stadium. It was as loud a home crowd as I can remember over the past several years now. Nice turnout by the fans.
Gabbert was pretty bad in this game. He missed some wide open Titans receivers on 3rd downs early and then gave up the backbreaking dumb interception late. He had some positive moments mixed in there as well, but in the end, he couldn’t avoid the bad mistake long enough.
Gabbert isn’t the worst backup quarterback in the NFL and he’s a clear upgrade over Matt Cassel, but he failed in the clutch this time. If Marcus Mariota had been able to go, I have to think the Titans win this game.
Jackson’s punt return blunder got bailed out by Jayon Brown’s fumble recovery, but it was still among the most boneheaded plays of the game. Jackson has yet to produce the electric return we all have hoped for and the Titans should really look at taking him off the return duties for 2019. He also left a later return effort gimpy which could have been terrible news for the defense.
The Titans DL without Jurrell Casey
Casey isn’t a replaceable player, but it was pretty evident that the Titans missed him in a big way on Sunday night. The Colts found a ton of running room in the middle of the Titans defense and Andrew Luck was rarely bothered, especially from the middle of the pass rush. Outside of a couple splash plays from DaQuan Jones, it mostly looked like the Colts were dominating in the trenches when they had the ball.