Since he became the Tennessee Titans’ starting quarterback Jake Locker has had no margin for error in the passing game.
Sunday’s 28-21 victory over the St. Louis Rams was the first time the Titans won when Locker has thrown an interception. And in this case he threw two. At bad times.
The first came with less than a minute to play in the second quarter and the score tied 7-7. It gave the Rams possession at the Tennessee 26 with 44 seconds remaining before halftime and the opportunity to take a lead into the locker room.
The second was with 4:44 left in the contest, fewer than two minutes after St. Louis tied it 21-21. In that case, the Rams got the ball at their own 21 with an opportunity to take the lead and leave the Titans little or no time to answer.
“You know, I think he’d like to have them both back,” coach Mike Munchak said Monday. “… Those are some things we’ve been able to avoid as an offense, and luckily, our defense, on both the sudden changes, didn’t give up any points. That’s one of the big differences with our defense from this year to last year is the mental toughness of that mentality of going out there after having a short field and then [holding them] to no points and actually getting a turnover right back to us the second time.
“We’re lucky we got away with that.”
After the first, the defense did not allow a yard on three pass plays and forced a 44-yard field goal attempt, which missed to the right. Three plays after the second, the defense forced a turnover that set up Chris Johnson’s game-winning 19-yard touchdown run on the next snap.
In the Titans’ first three victories this season Locker threw four touchdown passes with no interceptions. Similarly, in his four victories last season he had four touchdown passes with no interceptions.
The story has been completely different when it came to interceptions.
1 vs. New England (Sept. 9), L 34-13
1 at San Diego (Sept. 16), L 38-10
2 at Jacksonville (Nov. 25), L 24-19
3 vs. Houston (Dec. 2), L 24-10
2 at Indianapolis (Dec. 9), L 27-23
2 at Green Bay (Dec. 23), L 55-7
1 vs. San Francisco (Oct. 20), L 31-17
2 at St. Louis (Nov. 3), W 28-21
Obviously, it is an oversimplification to suggest that one interception or more was the deciding factor in any of those defeats.
However, since the start of last season Tennessee is 1-8 when it loses the turnover battle. The exception is last season’s overtime victory over Detroit, the first time Locker started and did not throw an interception.
Simply put: It’s best that he does not throw an interception, although now all is not lost if he does.