AFC South: 2012 Week 17 coverage
December, 30, 2012
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com
Thoughts on the Tennessee Titans' 38-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field:
What it means: The Titans finished the season with their first win against the AFC South and wound up in third place with a 6-10 record. The Jaguars couldn’t beat Tennessee a second time and wrapped up a franchise worst 2-14 year.
What’s hard to believe: Late in the second and early in the third quarter, the Titans scored 28 points without taking a snap on offense. They got a 79-yard interception return from linebacker Zach Brown, followed by a 69-yard punt return from Darius Reynaud, followed by a 81-yard punt return from Reynaud, followed by a 30-yard interception return from Brown. It was the first time in NFL history a team got two returns for scores from two different players.
What’s also hard to believe: The Jaguars outplayed the Titans early, but Jacksonville simply lacks the fortitude and the skill to sustain such performances. This time it flamed out in incredible fashion to ensure another loss that earns it the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft. Unless the Chiefs mount a comeback and upset Denver, in which case the Jaguars would draft first.
One to watch, Jaguars: Rookie receiver Justin Blackmon was targeted 13 times and caught six passes for 79 yards. His 30-yard touchdown showcased what the Jaguars hope to get from him for years to come. He muscled the ball away from a defender and ran through and past people to score.
Added confidence: Did Jake Locker do much to carry confidence into the offseason? While the Titans' young quarterback avoided major gaffes, he threw only 15 passes, completed nine for 152 yards with no interception, no touchdown and a 94.3 passer rating.
What’s next: We wait on the owners of these teams to decide on their general managers and coaches. Will Bud Adams stick with coach Mike Munchak? Will Shad Khan replace general manager Gene Smith as expected?
December, 30, 2012
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- Thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 28-16 victory over the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
What it means: The Colts finished 11-5 and, unless both the Patriots and Broncos lose, denied the Texans the chance to claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Houston completes the regular season at 12-4 with losses in three of their past four games and little momentum. We won’t know if they have to play Cincinnati in the first round next weekend until we see what Denver and New England do today. The Colts will be heading to Baltimore looking to spring a wild-card-round upset.
What I liked: Indianapolis split the season series with the Texans in Chuck Pagano’s return to the sideline for the Colts. The atmosphere was electric for the big return, and the team fed off it, while the Texans were too flat for too long. The Colts got two giant plays in the second half -- a 101-yard kickoff return from Deji Karim and a 70-yard Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton touchdown pass. They also got pass pressure on Matt Schaub from a bunch of guys most people have never heard of, including Lawrence Guy, Clifton Geathers and Jamaal Westerman.
An early verdict: Schaub takes a lot of heat for not performing in the clutch, but he has not played in a lot of games with huge stakes. This one was significant, and he didn’t rise to the occasion. He got picked off by Vontae Davis in the first half when he was late and short to a wide-open James Casey deep and he forced a fourth-quarter pass for Andre Johnson in the end zone that Davis raced under to collect. In the blog this week, we debated Luck versus Schaub this season. Today it was clear. Advantage: Luck.
Injury concerns: Colts left guard Joe Reitz left the game with a head injury and will likely face concussion tests this week to get back in the lineup for the playoffs. Texans inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton left the game with a hip problem, which is what had him on the PUP list for a long stretch of the season.
Great clock work: The Colts got the ball with 9:46 remaining in the game, and methodically moved down the field, milking time and killing the chances of the Texans to get it back and threaten the lead. At the two-minute warning with the ball at Houston’s 14-yard line, Pagano and the man who filled in for him, Bruce Arians, shared a big hug on the sideline. The Colts wound up kneeling out the clock.
What’s next: The Colts will play at the Ravens, the No. 4 seed, next weekend. The Texans will either host Cincinnati, or they’ll have a week off before making their playoff debut.