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Sunday, September 15, 2013
In biggest moment, Locker off target

By Paul Kuharsky


HOUSTON -- Half of the time the Tennessee Titans had the ball at Reliant Stadium Sunday, they kept it for just three plays.

Not a typo.

The second half started off like this:
“We were backed up the whole third quarter,” coach Mike Munchak said.

Then, remarkably, out of nowhere, came what they’d been waiting for and desperately needed: An efficiently engineered nine-play, 99-yard touchdown march.

Jake Locker hit his top three receivers, Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright. Chris Johnson broke off a 15-yard run. Locker connected with tight end Delanie Walker for a 10-yard score.

Unfortunately, the Titans returned immediately into offensive hibernation.

The Texans drove to their own touchdown and a 2-point conversion to knot things at 24-24.

Tennessee got the ball at its 20-yard line with 1:53 on the clock and all three of its timeouts.

And did nothing.

Locker overthrew Washington on first down on the right sideline.

“It was early,” Locker said of that throw. “And he didn’t have an opportunity to come out of his cut yet.” (Washington said it was on him.)

Second down was a 9-yard pass attempt to Kenny Britt on the left.

Third down, the Texans loaded up for a blitz, with two relatively deep linebackers racing forward to join the charge toward Locker. Things unfolded beautifully, with Britt open over the middle, a bit to the left, facing Locker, with space to catch it and run. Except Locker threw it way, way over his head.

A quarterback who often bristles at talk of his inaccurate passing threw an inaccurate ball at a crucial time.

“The second one [of the two high passes] I would love to have back,” he said. “... I just missed it.”

Multiple Titans talked of how it’s not on Locker, how there are 11 guys involved, etc. I understand the team wants to be less quarterback-centric than most, and I understand why. I understand why guys don’t throw their QB under the bus. But that play came down to Locker making a throw to Britt.

He couldn’t. He didn’t.

The Titans can be quarterback minimalists.

But a lot of games are going call for plays by the quarterback at certain moments. Locker is going to have to make more than he has in two games.

He avoided the big turnover. He fumbled one shotgun snap but managed to cover it.

With the Titans pinned near their own goal line over and over, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was pretty conservative. We didn’t see the heavy play-action or frequent rollouts they’ve talked about so often.

Locker didn’t throw a pick or lose a fumble. He threw for two touchdowns and posted a 92.1 passer rating.

But at a certain point, repeated third-down failures that force punts are not that far off of downfield turnovers.

Locker was 6-for-11 for 42 yards, a TD and a fumble on third down. Only three of the completions converted a third down. He converted another with a 10-yard scramble.

In the second half he threw incomplete on five of seven third downs.

If he hit Britt on that third-and-one, maybe he would have been on his way to a second big drive and he’s be a hero.

The best vertical jumper in the world couldn't have caught that pass, though. The Titans quarterback still needs plenty of polish.