Chargers vs Titans: Takeaways from Tennessee's 20-17 Win over San Diego
A win is always good news, but of course, new concerns were raised as well. There was more good than bad, though, as the Titans start the season 2-1 in a tough part of the 2013 schedule.
Here are some takeaways from Tennessee's Week 3 win.
Jake Locker Has Definitely Improved
I've been complaining about Jake Locker's inconsistency for the last two weeks, but this week, there's little bad that you can say about his play.
Locker was fantastic overall, and in some drives, he looked downright elite. In the Titans' first scoring drive, he completed all of his five attempts for 76 yards...then ran in for a touchdown.
In the final drive, he led the Titans down the field with no timeouts, throwing a 34-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Justin Hunter with only 15 seconds remaining. Most of Locker's passes on the drive were beauties.
The only bad thing I can really say about Locker is that he still has a disappointing tendency to throw to receivers who are way short of the first-down marker on 3rd-and-long.
Other than that, Locker was great. He's never going to be a 70-percent-completion-type of quarterback, but if he keeps playing like this, he can get the Titans by with a lower-than-average completion rate.
2. Dowell Loggains Is Still Learning
Week after week, the Titans offense has looked less and less predictable.
Like I said in the last slide, Locker looks greatly improved, and it's tough to say where that improvement comes from. It could be that the Chargers were, coming into this game, the worst pass defense in the league.
It could be that Locker ran a lot more, making the Chargers defense have to account for his scrambling, or it could be that giving Locker the ball more often makes it easier for him to get into a rhythm.
It's probably a combination of those things, but I like the improvement I'm seeing in the play-calling. Dowell Loggains is the youngest offensive coordinator in the league, so seeing him change up his style week to week isn't surprising.
If he can keep getting performances like this from Chris Johnson and Jake Locker, he could find himself coordinating a playoff team.
3. The Pass Defense Is Still a Little Vulnerable
The Titans defense did a good job overall today, holding the Chargers to 17 points, close to half of what they put up last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.
But they showed some cracks.
When Philip Rivers had time, he picked the Titans' defensive backs apart. He had only four incomplete passes for the entire game.
Against Ben Roethlisberger, the Titans kept its front seven in the Pittsburgh QB's face the entire game, rarely giving him time to find an open receiver.
Against the Steelers, the pressure worked.
Today, the line was less dominant than it has been in the past, which is strange, since the Chargers aren't exactly sporting the best offensive line. Despite those struggles, the Titans did not allow too many touchdowns for the Chargers, so the red-zone defense was better.
There were just fewer sacks and tackles for loss.
Hopefully, this will be a warning for defensive cooridnator Jerry Gray going forward. When you face a good quarterback with this defense, you have to lean heavily on your pass rush.
4. Chris Johnson Is Being Overutilized
Chris Johnson has had to be the workhorse for the Titans since Shonn Greene left the lineup with a knee injury, but there are still times the Titans need a short-yardage specialist to carry the ball.
One perfect example came against the Chargers, when a penalty set the Titans up with 1st-and-short. They gave Johnson the ball, and he was tackled at the line of scrimmage. They tried again and Johnson pushed through.
Situations like that are exactly what 240-pound running backs were built for. With Greene sidelined, Johnson is the second-most important player on the offense right now. He does not need to be hit any more often than is necessary.
Jackie Battle has shown in the preseason and in Week 1 that he can be a reliable second option for short yardage. When you need one yard, he should absolutely be the first guy whom the Titans go to.
If the Titans coaches want to see the occasional big run out of Johnson, then they need to not get him banged up in short-yardage situations.
5. The Titans Cannot Keep Starting in the Hole
This is the second game in which the Titans started a game by shooting themselves in the foot.
In the season opener against Pittsburgh, the Titans put two points on the board for the Steelers by giving them a safety on the opening kickoff.
Against the Chargers, the Titans opened up with a series of penalties that forced an immediate punt, giving the Chargers good field position. The Chargers then scored on their opening drive.
The Titans have started slow in two of their three contests, which portends a serious problem in close games. If the Titans keep stumbling out of the gate, it'll be that much harder to make the playoffs.
6. Penalties Are Becoming an Issue
The Titans committed 12 total penalties, but only 11 went against them. It cost them a total of 116 yards.
Take away half of those penalties and the Titans may not have needed a game-winning drive out of Jake Locker.
Against Houston, the Titans weren't as bad, committing a mere nine penalties for 70 yards, though those penalties might have been the difference between a win and the Titan's eventual overtime loss.
The Titans had 106 penalties last season. Now they're on pace to end up with 138. That's too many, and if the Titans are going to be a run-first offense, they're going to have too many close games to commit that many penalties.
7. Special Teams Play Has Suffered
I'm sure the Titans fired former special teams coach Alan Lowry for very good reasons, but in games like this, he was sorely missed.
Many of the Titans' 12 penalties were called on kickoff returns, and as a result, the offense faced a long field on almost every possession.
There were some good plays as well, like a blocked field goal by Bernard Pollard at the end of the first half, but overall, the special teams play is still lacking. There is too much talent among the special teams players for there to be this many mistakes week after week.
8. The Playoffs Are Looking More and More Realistic
The Titans have a number of bad teams left on their schedule. Next week they take on the New York Jets at home. In the second half of the season, they face in succession St. Louis, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Oakland and Indianapolis.
With two wins under their belt, the Titans have a favorable schedule in front of them. And there's always the chance that the Titans could upset someone like Kansas City or Houston.
A nine-win season is a real possibility, and in the AFC, nine wins might be all they need.