By David Climer, The Tennessean
INDIANAPOLIS - One of these days, Jake Locker is going to learn to finish what he started.
Thirteen games into his second pro season, Locker continues to show some promising signs of developing into a quality NFL quarterback, but his inability to make plays in the clutch remains a very big concern.
happened again on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. In a winnable game
against AFC South rival Indianapolis, Locker stumbled badly down the
stretch and the Titans followed his lead, squandering a 20-7 halftime lead and losing 27-23.
again, the Titans found a new and different way to lose. In games
against upper-crust teams such as Houston and New England, they are
clearly outmanned and lose by at least two touchdowns. Against
second-tier competition, they somehow manage to squander opportunities.
a dickens of a game, it was the best of times and it was the worst of
times for Locker. His first half was exceptional - 15-of-20 for 213
yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 125.6, not to mention a
But in the second half, Locker threw for just 49
yards and was intercepted twice, including a pick-6 that gave the Colts
the lead. By game's end, his passer rating had slipped to a pedestrian
"We just made some mistakes," Locker said. "We had
turnovers. We didn't have that in the first half. Those are things that
can be a difference between gaining a bunch of yards and scoring points
To his credit, Locker understands scrutiny comes with
his position. The NFL of 2012 is a quarterback's league. All eyes are on
the man behind center.
"It's hard to keep saying it and not have
the outcome you want, but you've got to keep working hard and preparing
and doing everything you can to have success when you get there," he
Maybe this comes with age and experience. But when you check
out how some of the NFL's young guns perform in the clutch - including
but not limited to Colts rookie Andrew Luck - you have to wonder. Could
it be that some guys have it and other guys don't?
As a rookie, Luck makes those plays when the game is on the line. As a second-year pro, Locker often does not.
Telling stat: Indianapolis is 8-1 this season in games decided by one touchdown or less. The Titans are 2-3.
now, at least, we should cut Locker some slack. Although Locker has
been it the league a year longer, he has played the same number of NFL
games as Luck and has started five fewer.
Despite the second-half
struggles against the Colts, Locker's confidence doesn't appear shaken.
And his teammates haven't lost their faith in him.
Asked if he saw a change in Locker after either of his second-half interceptions, running back Chris Johnson said:
the same guy. He's human. He lets us know he's going to make mistakes
but he's still going to stick in there and try to make plays. No matter
if you play quarterback, running back, offensive line or whatever you
play, everybody's going to make mistakes. You come back after the
Plus, Locker's not getting a lot of help from the
sidelines. His inexplicable pick-6 deep in the third quarter from the
Tennessee 1-yard line was a play that should never have been called. And
Titans coach Mike Munchak admitted it.
After the Colts punted the
ball out of bounds at the 1, Locker was given a call that had two
options. Depending on what he saw out of the defense, he could run a
quarterback sneak to get a little maneuvering room or throw a quick pass
to Nate Washington on the right flank.
After assessing the defensive alignment, Locker threw the hitch. Upon further review, he should've run the sneak.
"It was just one that I shouldn't have thrown," he said.
Knowing that a safety
was rotating wide to cover any deep throw, Colts cornerback Cassius
Vaughn jumped the route. He stepped in front of Washington, made the
interception and stepped into the end zone for a touchdown that pushed
Indianapolis ahead 21-20.
"That's my fault. I should've just had
him sneak it and not give him the option," Munchak said. "... In some
crucial situations, it's on us to maybe limit the decision making to
help a young quarterback along."
There were plenty of other
second-half glitches, notably a quarterback sneak with 3½ minutes
remaining and the Titans on their 30. Although the Titans had just
gotten a first down on a Johnson run on the previous play, coaches and
players alike thought it was third-and-inches.
Before the coaches could get Locker's attention, he had run a sneak for no gain.
That's the kind of season it has become.
way we do that is designed to happen quickly so the defense is caught
off guard," left tackle Michael Roos said. "We were already getting
lined up and nobody looked up to see that it was a first down.
was a wasted down. That's our season right there. We need to create as
many breaks as we can and we could've used that first down for a better
play, but that's just the way it happened."
The good news: Only three games remain.