INDIANAPOLIS – Everyone is going to make a big deal out of this Terry Robiskie halftime speech, because everyone loves to make a big deal out of halftime speeches and this one sounded like a corker.
“It was fire,” Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan said of whatever the Titans offensive coordinator said to the offense at halftime of a 20-16 comeback win Sunday at Indianapolis — which couldn’t have been much more profane than what some Titans fans were muttering about Robiskie at the time.
So we can talk about the speech. But I don’t care much about screaming at giant men who make millions to move other giant men out of the way so smaller men can advance a football. I care more about Robiskie’s actual job, which is designing plays, formulating a game plan and calling the right plays at the right time.
He does it well, for the most part. He did it very well Sunday when it mattered the most.
And this is a good time to point that out, because every missed block and every failed run play and every ill-advised Marcus Mariota pass that lands in the mitts of an opponent is automatically going to be laid at Robiskie’s feet by a large portion of the people who care about this team. That’s the job.
I’m here to tell you: Robiskie is one of the good parts of this team, which now stands at 7-4 and is tied again with Jacksonville for first in the AFC South, and which just won for the first time ever in Lucas Oil Stadium and the first time in Indy since 2007.
That will not be a popular opinion because the Titans are struggling mightily on offense this season. The same offensive linemen are not controlling people like they did a year ago. DeMarco Murray is not running like he did a year ago. Mariota gave the Colts 10 points with two interceptions Sunday, giving him six in his past two games and a total of nine touchdowns and 12 picks this season. He had 26 touchdowns and nine picks last season.
“Just poor throws,” Mariota said, which is true, but because everyone wants to baby the franchise quarterback around here, it’s easier to go with some crap about the “system not fitting him” or the coaches “not putting him in position to succeed.”
Please save it. This offense is great for Mariota, when the running game actually works. Like in the fourth quarter Sunday, when Derrick Henry started going battering ram on Colts all over the field and Mariota made enough clutch passes to move the Titans 77 yards for the winning touchdown.
“We stopped pussyfooting around and (freaking) got it done, that’s what really happened,” Lewan said and then added, accurately: “We start too slow.”
The touchdown was scored on a crafty little play Robiskie put in this week, employing Murray and Henry in a two-back look. Murray lined up as fullback and got in easily from the 1.
“You guys probably could have walked in on that,” Murray said to assembled, largely unathletic reporters.
But the best call of the day came on the 64-yard drive to kill the final 3:54 of the clock, which featured more Henry as a battering ram and Mariota as a clutch passer. It was third-and-5 from the Indy 36 with 2:49 left and the Colts down to a single timeout.
The predictable thing to do was run the ball, get rid of the last Colts timeout and try to get close enough for a Ryan Succop field goal from 50 or so to make it 23-16.
The Titans decided to win it. Robiskie called for a pass. Mariota detected man coverage, Titans receivers ran interference — without committing interference — on the linebacker charged with shadowing Murray and he took a short pass for 8 yards and a first down.
That’s winning football, play calling and execution, which this team has had enough in its past eight games decided by four points or less to win all of them. Teams with bad offensive coordinators don’t do things like that.
“Robiskie’s a hell of a coach,” Lewan said. “He calls the plays that put us in position to be successful and he does it every single time. And we weren’t making him look good with his good play calls. Sometimes it goes back and forth, but for sure this time we had to focus on getting the run game going. Sustain blocks, get it moving.”
And then Mariota has time to throw, and freezes defenders with run fakes, and looks like the quarterback he’s supposed to be. Robiskie isn’t perfect — Lewan and much of the Nissan Stadium press box were incredulous a couple weeks ago when he called a tight end sweep at the goal line — but he is an asset. It shouldn’t take screaming to hear that.
Contact Joe Rexrode at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @joerexrode.
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