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.
Rivers 20-24 is misleading, look at his yard total. Hard to win with under 200 yards passing from arguably their best player so far this year. I thought TN did a great job on Royal who has been unstoppable. All in all the penalties have to stop, we aren't going to keep winning close games like we have been in if we keep shooting ourselves in the foot. Britt should ride the pine so we can get Washington, Wright and Williams on the field. Hunter won't be starting for Britt but more playing time will help.
Rob turner is horrible. I said it when they first brought him in camp and I'll say it again. Terrible. Yes his penalty technically didnt count however it offset a Charger penalty that would have helped us. His two penalties last week helped force a safety in a game that went to OT. He hasn't been "tenacious" as Munch had hoped and has simply been a disappointment. Velasco's 2 million salary would have been worth it for one more year until Shwenke could hopefully take over. He was the teams unsung hero as he played all 16 games and look at what he did on just a couple practices in slowing Geno Atkins and Domato Peko in his first game with Pittsburgh. The Titans need an anchor at Center that once again we don't have. I don't know much about Chris Spencer but it may be time to consider getting him ready to play as Turner is clearly the weakest link on a solid line. Warmack still has lots of room to get better but he has been as advertised and I hope we get to see a rematch in week 17 of him and Watt to gauge his progress.
Solid win that is the kind of game we would have lost last year (just like last weeks heartbreaker). Locker has been solid even though he hasn't been asked to do much. Hopefully he can continue to play solid turnover free play as this team apparently doesn't have room for errors. The Jets have been surprisingly decent this year so this is no longer a game that appeared a fairly sure thing for us. 3-1 vs 2-2 is huge difference and we need to build up our record so for once we aren't depending on help to even get in the playoffs. Division is wide open so now is the time to try and get on a run!!!