As far as first impressions, the one Desmond King made on his new Tennessee Titans teammates was rather splendid.
After being acquired from the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 2 to help shore up the defensive backfield, King started his first game for his new team Sunday in a 24-17 win over the Chicago Bears. He came up with two tackles and a fumble recovery, returning the fumble 63 yards for a third-quarter touchdown.
Or to put it another way, King scored a touchdown before even practicing with the team, which he did on Tuesday ahead of its AFC South showdown Thursday night with the visiting Indianapolis Colts.
“I think he earned the respect of a lot of people within our organization,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “Just by being able to learn everything virtually, come in and have some communication and interaction with the players on Saturday and then going out there and having a lot of snaps and competing and doing a nice job.
“When you love football, you find ways to do your job. … He’ll earn more snaps based on the job he did.”
Mirroring the new guy, Tennessee (6-2) produced its best effort defensively in a month. The Titans pitched a shutout through three quarters and fixed their third-down issues, allowing Chicago to convert just 2 of 15 after permitting opponents to cash in on nearly 62 percent during the first seven games.
Of course, stopping the Bears isn’t exactly the equivalent of clamping down on the 1999 St. Louis Rams or the “Air Coryell” Chargers.
Indianapolis (5-3) presents a middle-of-the-pack attack that ranks 15th in points per game and 21st in yards per game.
The Colts won five of six before Sunday’s 24-10 home loss to Baltimore, which dropped them a game behind Tennessee for first place in the AFC South. This will be the first of two meetings between the teams in 17 days, as they play again on Nov. 29 in Indianapolis.
Tennessee has been carried by its offense most of the year. Running back Derrick Henry is on pace for nearly 1,700 yards at the season’s halfway point, while quarterback Ryan Tannehill is enjoying the best season of his career, throwing for 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions in eight games.
The Titans managed a season-low 228 yards against Chicago. Henry was held to 68 yards on 21 carries and Tannehill completed less than 50 percent of his passes. But with the defense picking up the slack, the offense could afford to have a sub-par game and still feel good when it was over.
“We’ve put ourselves in position to play a lot of meaningful football games in the second half of the year,” Vrabel said.
As for the Colts, they received some good news from Tuesday’s injury report. Veteran wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who missed the Baltimore loss with a groin injury, was a full participant and is expected to play in Nashville. Hilton traditionally has big games against Tennessee, and its shaky secondary appears to be a good matchup for him.
But this one could come down to how the Indianapolis defense, which has yielded the third-fewest points (160) in the league, deals with an offense that ranks seventh in the NFL at 29 points per game.
“They’re playing good football,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said. “We’ve done a really good job limiting the big plays. That was a big emphasis going into this year.”
Capacity will again be limited to about 14,000 fans at Nissan Stadium, which seats just over 69,000.