Where to begin? I guess I'll start off with the game's most influential player.
I will be very interested to see what the pundits say about Locker going forward. He was decisive and accurate the entire game, passing for 299 yards and a TD, and for the third straight game, 0 INTS. Beyond these numbers though, he was clutch when it mattered most, leading the Titans 94 yards down the field with just 2 minutes to go and no timeouts. This is what being a franchise quarterback is all about. After a lethargic start to the game, Locker ignited the offense with some sensational runs that put the Titans back into it, both on the scoreboard and emotionally. Honestly, I don't think the Chargers defense realized how fast the young gun is. He left defenders in his dust on often, and avoided several sacks throughout the game by scrambling and (most importantly) keeping his eyes down the field for accurate strikes on stretched-out defenses. This is a sign of marked growth for Locker as well. Now, I won't gloss over a bad fumble by Locker on a designed run, which was a great call by Loggains by the way. He had to keep that ball secure if he's going to be as active in the running game as he was today. In the grand scheme of things, considering his turnover free play, accurate passing, and multiple 90+ yard drives this season, I think we can put to rest any doubts about him being "the guy" going forward.
One thing the team will need to do better, however; is getting 6 in the red zone. Early in the game they settled for 3 after marching 90 yards down the field, this just cannot happen. Later on, a ridiculous call by the refs on a Nate Washington catch and fumble (that was ruled an incompletion even after review) forced a field goal attempt that Bironas missed. Instead of a likely TD, the Titans gave the ball back to San Diego with great field position empty-handed. This will no doubt be an area of focus for the coaching staff heading into the next leg of the schedule.
As for individual performers, you have to start with Nate Washington. His play was phenomenal, and he flashed great hands and wiggle after the catch to top 100 yards. This was despite two nullified big catches by the Tiffin WR. He didn't let those things phase him, though, and was Jake's clear favorite target all day for good reason. Kendall Wright also flashed some skills, making yards after the catch and securing everything that came his way. He looks to be in mid-season form to me, which is especially impressive coming back from an ankle injury not too long ago as well as a rough dirty hit last week in Houston. Justin Hunter should have had two TDs in this one, but I'm sure he's happy with the game winner (He was interfered with on an endzone throw earlier that was missed by the officials.) Delanie Walker also had a decent outing, hauling in some nice grabs. He mitigated his only major mistake late in the fourth, when he failed to catch a beautiful pass and tipped it to a Chargers Safety, of which he then proceeded to knock the ball out. All of Tennessee had its breath held there for several seconds, before they could finally relax again.
Now the ugly part. Kenny Britt, ladies and gentlemen. I have given up hope of him ever recovering his pre-injury form. He was a rising star that never really shone, and the Titans were more than justified to bench him when the game was on the line. For the third straight week, Britt cursed the offense with bad drops and worse penalties. I know it may be too much to ask, but I never want to see him in Two-Toned Blue ever again. Aside from Hunter, even Williams and Preston, in very limited action I might add, outperformed Britt in every facet of the game. There really isn't a scenario where putting him on the field helps this team. It's just not going to happen with him, and Titans fans can finally put to rest the myth of Kenny Britt being a legitimate No.1 receiver.
The Run Game
The offensive line redeemed themselves considerably in pass protection. Andy Levitre, Chance Warmack, and yes even Rob Turner had better games. They also made some strides in the run-blocking department. Chris Johnson was able to pick up some nice gains and keep the defense honest. Again, I feel we missed Shonne Greene, especially early on when the offense missed a chance to put a touchdown on the board from 2 yards out. Collin Mooney put in another strong performance, and it made for a productive day overall. This may be lost in the game news to follow, as the Titans passing game was the story of the day.
On the defensive side of things, yet again it was the same story. After giving up tons of yards and a score early, the Titans D threw up the barricades and was a tough nut to crack for the rest of the day. The most important aspect for them was taking the run game out of the equation for the Chargers, and they did just that. San Diego just topped 100 yards rushing by game's end, but a majority of those came on early second-half runs by Danny Woodhead, who has already become a key cog of the Bolts offense. This forced then Chargers into a quick-release passing attack as the D-line was able to pin their ears back and get after Rivers.
A (completely unnecessary) pass-interference by Coty Sensabaugh eliminated a Griffin INT which he returned 30 yards. The overthrow by Rivers was an ugly one, but they dodged the bullet there. The defense proceeded to give up another long drive which put the Chargers up 17-10 and in position to take the W. The Titans defense responded again, however; giving the offense two key possessions late in the fourth quarter after forcing punts. This is the sort of resiliency they will need to continue to have. As we saw today, give Jake and the offense a chance to win the game, and they might very well pull through for you.The defensive line put pressure on Rivers all day, highlighted by several sacks, including one from Ayers who lined up on the right side. I hardly saw Wimbley all day, which was odd, but the results were good. The secondary backed them up with solid play on the back end, forcing the underneath and dump-off throws often, resulting in another good performance on 3rd down for this young defense.
According to Bolts from the Blue, I am a homer, but I will not refuse to acknowledge the mistakes this team made today. Without a lot of the dumb penalties the team endured, they might have won handily. They certainly didn't do themselves any favors. Up until this point, the defense had actually been pretty good in this area, as only four teams had less defensive penalties than them going into today's game. Most of the calls were justified, but those same referees who were running out of yellow laundry couldn't seem to see any mistakes made by the Chargers, who got away with an awful lot during the game. Regardless, the Titans rose above the penalties and won the game in spite of it. They will certainly have some things to clean up going into next week's home game against the Jets.
There are many things than can be gleaned from this game: that good old Tennessee Titans defense is back, that this young group of pass-catchers could be special, that this team in general don't know the rules of kick/punt returning. But in the end, people will remember this game as the first TD from Locker to Hunter (of many to come) and as a stunning come-from-behind victory that put Locker's status as the leader of this team beyond doubt. I never doubted him, but if you are one of those who did, now would be a good time to change your mind. His accuracy and cool play under pressure, as well as his ingenuity on scrambles and runs, were the difference today. If you can't get behind a guy like this, please check your pulse. If Jake can play like he did today and continue to take care of the football, this team could do some damage down the road.
As always, Go TITANS!