The Tennessee Titans (2-3) were thoroughly dominated on the ground by their AFC South rival Indianapolis Colts (3-2) throughout Sunday’s 23-16 defeat. The Titans clearly missed the services of Teair Tart, who missed the game with a toe injury. Tart’s absence proved his worth to the Titans.
The Colts torched the Titans’ well-respected, top-ranking run defense. Indianapolis’ offense amassed 193 rushing yards, and it was largely achieved without dual-threat starting quarterback Anthony Richardson, who exited the contest prematurely with a shoulder injury. It mattered little.
The Titans were prepared to face Jonathan Taylor, who made his long-awaited 2023 debut following an injury that led to him being placed on the PUP, and a contract-related standoff. Who the Titans weren’t prepared for was backup journeymen Zack Moss, who rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Moss, a career 4.2-yard-per-carry runner, averaged 7.2 yards per carry versus the Titans. A dual-threat Moss added 30 receiving yards to his offensive totals. Moss became the first running back to surpass 100 yards versus the Titans since Week 1 of the 2022 season.
Moss’ 56-yard touchdown arrived without bells and whistles, and occurred via a routine rush up the middle that the Titans almost always stuff near the line of scrimmage. Instead, a massive rushing lane created by the Colts’ banged-up offensive line widened for Moss to dart through. Tart typically plugs those gaps for the Titans. Tart was replaced in the lineup by Kyle Peko and Jaleel Johnson, neither of which were effective. Tennessee’s reputable defensive line was flat-out bullied by Indianapolis.
The Titans have quality run stoppers on the roster besides Tart. Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry, and Harold Landry all have reputable reputations as dual-threat defenders that can rush passes and stuff the run. Jack Gibbens starts at inside linebacker for his willingness to come downhill and attack gaps. None of these players looked like themselves without Tart doing the dirty work.
Tart is currently playing out the final year of his contract. A short-lived offseason-standoff ended with Tart signing his second-round tender because in truth, he possessed little-to-no leverage as a former undrafted free agent. Tart is currently earning $4.304 million this year, per Spotrac.
Tart will be searching for a lucrative payday in free agency, whether in Tennessee or elsewhere. The Titans are scheduled to possess an abundance of cap space. They could easily afford to re-sign Tart, should they choose to do so. Tart’s absence versus the Colts proved he deserves a multi-year extension worth upwards of $8 million annually.