Colts’ Darius Leonard: I’m not a quitter

Sports

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – NOVEMBER 29: Geoff Swaim #87 of the Tennessee Titans looks to gain extra yardage in the third quarter against Darius Leonard #53 of the Indianapolis Colts during their game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 29, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS – The game was out of reach – or so it seemed – yet Darius Leonard still was flying around the field, still trying to make a play that might create a seismic turnaround, still imploring the crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium to raise a raucous.

If some outsiders on social media thought he was overdoing it with his histrionics, tough. Never mind Leonard and his Indianapolis Colts were on the wrong end of a 35-14 halftime score and en route to a 45-26 lacing at the hands of the Tennessee Titans.

“We’ve been backed in the corner,’’ the All-Pro linebacker said in a post-game Zoom conference call. “I’ve been in plenty of battles in my life and at halftime, it’s a mindset thing. I see all the things people say about Darius is pumping up the crowd and stuff.’’

It’s another matter how Leonard had time to notice what was trending on social media while the Colts were regrouping at halftime. His point: this was no time to cut and run.

“Only dummies quit,’’ he said. “I’m not a quitter. That’s not what I do. I fight to the finish. We’ve been down plenty of times, but you keep fighting. When you are in these situations, you find out what type of team you have.

“Who is quitting on you? Who’d going to keep playing? That’s what we have to do. That’s what I tried to do today. That’s why the defense came out in the second half . . . it was more so, ‘Are we going to lay down or step up? That’s the mindset you have to have as a competitor. If you lay down, if you’re not still trying to get the crowd into it, you’re still not trying to make plays, then you’re not a competitor. You suck.’’

For the record, the Titans rolled for 346 total yards and five touchdowns on 40 first-half plays. In the second half, their offense was limited to 103 yards and a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.

Leonard led the defense with 14 tackles, including 10 solos. No other Colt had more than six.

Another first-half punch

For the second straight game, the Colts’ defense didn’t get its act together until the second half.

The Titans led 35-14 at the half as their offense generated five touchdowns and 346 total yards on six drives that consisted of 40 plays. Last week, Green Bay jumped to a 28-14 halftime lead as seven possessions resulted in four TDs and 206 yards on 31 snaps.

“We’ve got to figure that out,’’ Leonard said.

He compared it to boxing and being unable to land the first shot.

“We wait until we get hit in the mouth to start playing and we can’t do that,’’ Leonard said. “If we want to be a good defense, we’ve got to step up in the first half of games.’’

Added linebacker Anthony Walker Jr.: “If we want to reach our goals this year, we have to correct that. It shouldn’t take us getting punched in the mouth for us to come out and respond.

“We have to throw the first punch and we understand that.’’

Earlier this year, the Cincinnati Bengals jumped to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter before the defense responded.

This and that

T.Y. Hilton had his best game of the season with four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. His was his first TD catch since Oct. 20, 2019 against Houston and his most yards since the ’19 season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers (87 yards on eight receptions). . . . Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin had a tough day. Along with being beaten by A.J. Brown for a 69-yard TD, he was penalized 13 yards for interference against Brown on a third-and-5 and earned a flag for hands-to-the-face of Brown in the end zone that wiped out a third-down sack of Ryan Tannehill. Instead of settling for a short field goal, the Titans’ next play was a 1-yard TD run by Derrick Henry. . . . Philip Rivers finished 24-of-42 for 295 yards with TDs to Hilton and Trey Burton and one interception.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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