Locker final minute TD gives Titans 20-17 win over Chargers

Well that was interesting.

The Titans completed a come-from-behind victory as Justin Hunter went up over cornerback Crezdon Butler to haul in a Jake Locker pass from 34 yards away with :15 to go for a 20-17 lead. They trailed 17-10 entering the fourth quarter and were down 17-13 at their own 6, needing to travel 94 yards for a score in 2:05 without the benefit of any timeouts as Mike Munchak lost two challenges (one good, the other less so). Scared of the big play, the Chargers obliged with off coverage and after a Nate Washington completion a play after a potential game-sealing interception wasn't hauled in, Locker missed an open Damian Williams in the end zone. The next play, though, the Chargers brought the blitz, and Locker made the throw he missed as Hunter won the battle of inexperienced players.

The game started unobligingly, as the Chargers came out and marched down the field with a short spread pass attack very much like the 2011 Steelers game that scared me so much in my preview. They stalled out and punted on fourth-and-1 from the Titans 39 their second drive, a cowardly decision that was appropriately punished with a field goal, the big play the first big one of the season with Jake Locker's legs, a 39 yard run. Locker's second such play would end in the end zone from 7 yards out to send the game into a 10-10 tie before halftime, a tie that only held up because of a Bernard Pollard field goal block at the gun. Big completions to tight ends Antonio Gates and Lardarius Green (a combined 7-103-1) helped set up a San Diego TD to make it 17-10 late in the third, but that was all the Chargers would accomplish on offense. Bironas cut the lead to 17-13 with a field goal with six minutes to play, and one last defensive stop set the stage for the game-winner.

A couple takeaways from this game for me, including things I didn't mention in my brief narrative of the game:
1. Tackling. The Titans did a great job of it, as Moise Fokou and Jason McCourty with big tackles on third down while the Chargers defensively gave the Titans a lot more yards after their first chance to bring them down than the Steelers and Texans did.
2. Kenny Britt, ugh. A drop on the first play, a false start, an illegal block in the back (a bit unfortunate, as he didn't do as much as it looked like he did), a total of no catches on five targets. This "not making contested" catches bit is entirely too reminiscent of Jared Cook. Potential rib and shoulder injuries give the Titans an excuse to sit him next week.
3. Jake Locker was much more composed in the pocket today than he was the first two games, and he used his legs effectively both to run (5-68-1) and get outside the pocket and throw. Kudos to him.
4. Nate Washington was money, with 8 grabs for 131 and proved surprisingly difficult for the Chargers to tackle.
5. Kendall Wright: 6 targets, 6 catches, 71 yards, and another player the Chargers had trouble tackling.
6. No turnovers for the Titans today. When you're trying to win on a razor-thin margin, that's huge. Locker did cough the ball up in the red zone in the fourth quarter, but Warmack was able to fall on it and the Titans ended up with the fourth quarter field goal that yielded the eventual scoring margin.
7. Zach Brown, only 1 tackle. I need to rewatch the game to figure out exactly where he was, if anywhere. Green and Gates did a lot of their damage against Fokou in coverage, it seemed.
8. Philip Rivers completed 20 of 24 passes. That's weird in a losing effort.
9. Officiating: 10 penalties for the Titans in the first half. Aside from Britt's soft block in the back, I thought all of them were legit. San Diego probably got away with pass interference in the end zone. But if you're looking at how things shook out, the holding call that knocked the Chargers back in the four-minute drill and Hunter's use of his arms to improve his positioning on Butler on the game-winning score make up for any disparity you should perceive.

More on this game in due course. Up next, what should be another low-scoring game when the New York Jets come to LP Field.

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