I wrote in my preview before today's Titans-Jets game that I expected it to be determined by which team got the most breaks and the most big plays. That proved to be the Titans, who converted four Geno Smith turnovers into four touchdowns and rolled to a comfortable 38-13 win that was not in doubt after halftime. The longest-lasting affect of the game, though, may be the hip injury Jake Locker sustained on a third quarter hit.
The first mistake came early, on the second play of the game. Smith had receiver Stephen Hill open on a post in front of Michael Griffin, but a late throw let Alterraun Verner undercut the route and Michael Griffin rocked Hill with a hard hit that sent him out for the game (and will probably draw a 5-figure fine from the NFL and would have negated the INT). Four runs later, Locker found an open Delanie Walker in the back of the end zone to complete the 18-yard march for a 7-0 lead. A couple good passes to Damian Williams on a field goal drive made it 10-0, then Smith fumbled on a third down scramble and Verner had his second fumble, this one returned to the Jets 26. Locker found Nate Washington twice on third down, the second time for a four-yard score and a 17-3 lead. Verner got his second pick of the game, beating Santonio Holmes to the ball, and the Titans started at the Jets 46 with 1:28 to go in the half. Locker had two more third down conversions, one on a scramble and the other to Damian Williams (who finished 5-53), before Justin Hunter caught a jump ball with :02 left for a 24-6 halftime lead.
At that point it was about all over but the shouting. Smith, who struggled badly with pressure on screens, was strip-sacked by Karl Klug for a TD to make it 31-6 in the fourth quarter and Washington had a 77-yard score for the 38-13 final on a play where he beat Antonio Cromartie and knocked over the back judge. The big play, though, came early in the third quarter, where Muhammad Wilkerson crushed Locker with what was probably an illegal hit and Quentin Coples finished him off with a pretty late hit. The combined effect of the two hits was Locker awkwardly turning around on his right hip. He was quickly carted off with the injury and Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the game.
I'll cover Locker and what the Titans might look like without him in a post this week, I promise, so I'll defray discussion of him until then. Other notes from this game:
1. Nate Washington finished the game with 105 yards receiving, giving him back-to-back 100 yard receiving games for the first time in his career.
2. Chris Johnson did not hit the long run roulette wheel again, finished with 15 carries for 21 yards (long 8). Jackie Battle hit the bigger long carry roulette wheel (20 yards), but was 10-21 on his other carries. I alluded to this in my preview and said this after the Houston game, but the Titans don't have a run game they can count on when they have to. It's cost them one game this year, and could easily cost them at least one more game.
3. Two sacks by Ropati Pitoitua! Who knew! (One of them came when he got the finish as somebody else flushed Geno, the other on a blown up screen.)
4. Zach Brown had a sack, four quarterback hits, and six total tackles. Play this guy and not dime unless you can make him the dime LB (which they won't).
Really, though, this is the Titans cashing in on field position after turnovers and the Locker injury. Everything else is small potatoes.
That was a pretty fine defensive effort. And the offence scored touchdowns on all of the Jets' turnovers. This team wouldn't have been able to do that last year. The Locker injury puts a huge sting into this victory. Just as he seemed to be hitting his stride another injury derails him. Let's hope its is more bruise than break or tear.
At this point, there is no doubt that this team is vastly improved in almost every facet of the game... except one. What can be done about the run game? The line has been overhauled, yet CJ is still unable to get many yards. Can we still blame the line? At this point, I am hoping that Shonn Greene comes back soon and takes carries away from CJ. He s a capable back. Maybe that way if the yards per attempt average proves, the Titans can determine that the problem with the running game doesn't rest with the O-line.
@Scott P I think CJ will get you the yards that are there and has been doing that consistently. When the blocking is good, he gets in the open field and does get that extra. However, the blocking frankly has not been very good, especially in the Jets game. CJ was getting nailed in the backfield all game long. Jackie Battle has not done any better with the blocking he has received when he is in the game and he is the type of runner who can get yards after the carry. yes, the titans overhauled the line, but put in an inferior player to what they had, Rob Turner. He is getting blown up week after week. I don't care how "nasty" he is. That has just led to stupid penalties. Velasco was the superior player. There was a reason Turner got cut by St. Louis and was a career back up prior to this year. I do not know if Schwenke is the answer, but he can't be worse than Turner.