San Diego Chargers: Jake Locker


A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers' 20-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

What it means: The Chargers had not lost to the Titans since the franchise was in Houston and known as the Oilers in 1992 (nine straight games). San Diego lets another game slip away in the final moments and falls to 1-2.

Defense can’t stop Locker: Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker went 7-of-10 for 94 yards on the game-winning drive, including a 34-yard touchdown strike to rookie receiver Justin Hunter with 15 seconds left. San Diego could have effectively ended the game four plays earlier, but defensive back Marcus Gilchrist couldn’t hold onto an interception on a tipped ball off the hands of Titans tight end Delanie Walker. Locker finished 23-of-37 for 299 passing yards.

Stock watch: Rising -- Philip Rivers continues to show a rebirth under new Chargers coach Mike McCoy. Rivers completed 20 of 24 passes for 184 yards with a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates. Rivers now has eight touchdown passes and just one interception on the year. Rivers did cost his team field position with a personal foul penalty for arguing an offensive pass interference call in the first half that negated an Eddie Royal touchdown pass in the first half. The Chargers had to settle for a Nick Novak 44-yard field goal on the drive.

Reserves step up: Michael Harris started in place of rookie D.J. Fluker (concussion) at right tackle and looked solid in pass protection, not giving up a sack. Harris also made a key block on Ronnie Brown's 1-yard touchdown run that put San Diego ahead in the second half, 17-10. Reggie Walker was a late replacement at inside linebacker in place of Donald Butler (groin), and notched a sack in the first half.

Titans run wild: Tennessee owned the line of scrimmage offensively, finishing with 170 rushing yards. Chris Johnson rushed 19 times for 90 yards. And Locker finished with 68 rushing yards.

What’s next: The Chargers return home to face the Dallas Cowboys next Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET.
Rivers/LockerUSA TODAY SportsJake Locker, right, will try to keep up with Philip Rivers and the Chargers, who have scored 61 points through two games.
The San Diego Chargers are the Tennessee Titans' white whale.

The teams don’t play that frequently -- just nine times since 1993, including a wild-card playoff matchup in January 2008. The franchises have undergone all sorts of changes during that span, but one thing has remained consistent when they meet: The Chargers always win.

Bill Williamson, why do you think that is, and what are the odds it continues?

Bill Williamson: I don’t see the Chargers' history with the Titans being a factor. I know in Nashville the word "Chargers" makes fans cringe because of the history. Both teams are rebuilding and trending upward. These are two similar teams, and they will both be in the AFC conversation in the coming years.

The Titans made a lot of changes. This isn’t the team the Chargers beat 38-10 last September. What’s the biggest difference?

Paul Kuharsky: The central part of the offseason revamp was the offensive line. The Titans have three new starters on the interior with left guard Andy Levitre, center Rob Turner and right guard Chance Warmack. Turner has been shaky, however, and Warmack is a rookie who is going to take some lumps when he’s across from someone like J.J. Watt. The group hasn’t jelled yet, but the run-blocking has been pretty good.

We've seen the good Philip Rivers and the bad Philip Rivers over the years. With the new regime in place, what is your feeling on who he will be now?

Williamson: I might be the wrong person to ask, Paul. I’ve always been high on Rivers. Yes, his play sank the past two seasons and he committed 47 turnovers during that span. But it wasn’t all on him. The previous regime in San Diego let go of a lot of skill-position talent, and the offensive line was decimated by injuries. Rivers didn’t have much help. He was pressing as a result. So far under head coach Mike McCoy, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and quarterback coach Frank Reich, Rivers has looked re-energized. He has looked relaxed and confident over the first two weeks. He has shown that he is still a high-level player. Stopping him is the main challenge for the Titans.

How’s Jake Locker coming along?

Kuharsky: He made a bad throw on a crucial third-and-1 late in regulation in the loss to the Texans. The Titans have hardly turned him loose so far. But since the start of camp, he’s shown steady progress. I’m not a complete believer by any means, but I think he has a chance and I didn’t always feel that way. We still haven’t seen some aspects of the offense that should be featured for him. Maybe this week he’ll run around more and we’ll see more boots and rollouts.

I’m curious about one of the guys who will be chasing Locker. The Titans have seen a great deal of Dwight Freeney over the years. How has he fit in the defensive scheme there?

Williamson: An old foe, indeed. Freeney is in a tough spot. He was signed (and paid well) to be the Chargers’ primary edge pass-rusher after 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram blew out his knee in May. But at 33, Freeney is best suited as a rotational player. He has half a sack this season. He has been active and will give his best effort, but he needs help. It would be a stretch to think he can still be a premier player. But he knows the Titans, and I’m sure he will be motivated to perform well Sunday.

What can Rivers and the Chargers' offensive line expect from the Titans’ pass rush?

Kuharsky: The best guys so far haven’t been the ends. Derrick Morgan, Akeem Ayers and Kamerion Wimbley should key the rush. Ayers moves from stongside linebacker to end on rush downs but has been limited by a bad ankle. Tackle Jurrell Casey and weakside linebacker Zach Brown have been the best rushers so far. The fronts are less predictable and the blitzes more frequent. That’s the influence of defensive assistant Gregg Williams. This defense is far better than I expected.

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