Jake Locker made his shocking return to the field against a strong 49ers squad. Unfortunately, I didn't help much as the rest of the team forgot to show up with him. Let's start with Jake. He made some nice throws throughout and was very accurate most of the day, but a slow start from the offense, compounded by a particularly bad throw that resulted in his first INT of the year. I don't like the double move very much; it's a long developing route and when a QB had to make a quick decision, he's just hoping the DB bites. It's effective with the right personnel, but a bad fake by Washington and some good game tape study from Brock caused Locker's first truly ugly throw of the year. That said, he is still 8 TDs, 1 INT in the passing game. Multiple drives were killed by penalties, some of them deserved, others not, but this team can't allow the game to come down to the refs, they have to rise above it like all the best teams do.
The offensive line actually had a decent day in the run game, too bad the team fell behind so quickly they didn't have a chance to do it more often. Schwenke was an immediate upgrade at Center, and was a crucial part of the 66 yard screen play that CJ took to the house. I think we will see a much better unit as a whole with him out there. Pass protection was solid for the most part, but not as clean as it has been in past weeks. David Stewart struggled at times, but I wouldn't pin the awful performance squarely on the line's shoulders.
The wideouts were a mixed bag. Kendall Wright looked as good as ever out there, and I continue to be impressed by his determination and agility, especially after the catch, though he did have a drop too. Nate had a few nice grabs as well, and Delanie Walker caught a nice touchdown pass late (as well as almost causing another INT and then preventing one as has become his style). Overall, it's just too bad that the offense finally decided to play football when the game was already well-decided. Matters were not helped early with Darius Reynaud mysteriously playing wideout and dropping a money pass on third down. With the talent at WR, I will never understand why Reynaud even sniffed the field on offense, let alone garnered a target on an early 3rd down conversion.
The defensive line was part of a unit that was, in my mind, already on the back foot when the game began. Williams and Gray employed a simple defensive scheme with no spy to speak of and one reliant on the line to collapse the pocket and contain the QB. With a guy like Kaepernick back there, 4 men is simply not enough. Again, it was already far too late in the game when they made a switch to start having some extra eyes in the backfield. The line was respectable against the run, but not stellar, and the pass rush was not nearly enough to force Kaepernick into making mistakes.
The linebackers had a rough go of it. Outside of a few nice plays, including one impressive tackle for loss near the 49ers goal line by Colin McCarthy, they had a forgettable afternoon. Akeem Ayers' penalty will loom large, and it wiped out a Pollard INT that could have swung the game's momentum. Instead of getting the ball back, the 49ers scored three plays later on a Kaepernick TD run, an event that opened the floodgates. Zach Brown and the other backers did a poor job of reacting to screens, tracking the running back on swing passes, and generally keeping good coverage. For the first time this year, they looked like they wanted to be somewhere else, which was really disappointing.
The secondary had a sub par showing as well. Verner and McCourty had great coverage all day but could not capitalize. They were both outmatched physically by Boldin and Davis. Having George Wilson cover Vernon was a terrible idea, he was no match for the TE's size and speed. Griffin played a decent game before tackling Frank Gore on a long catch and run, and subsequently leaving the game. Pollard made a play that should have swung the game early as I said, but beyond that he was nothing more than simply adequate. Overall I was simply disappointed with the lack of plays the defense made. Collectively, they made things far too comfortable for Kaepernick and co., and that just can't happen when you play good teams.
Thanks the gods of football that the Titans finally showed some sense in releasing Darius Reynaud, despite the fact that almost all of Titans' nation has known that that was the right course of action seven weeks ago. The returner, if you can call him that, has been consistently awful since even before the season's first snap, and hopefully the unit can be salvaged. They have really shot this team in the foot this season, almost once a game. Without a highly explosive offense, these errors are tough to come back from.
I honestly don't think I have been this upset after a Titans game since Chicago last year. While I am still very up-beat about the direction of this franchise with the likes of Locker at the helm, and the young talent around him like Casey, Brown, ATV, Kendall Wright, and Chance Warmack, I think the Titans will need a tremendous effort to get back to winning football games and being more than simply a footnote this year. They have the bye week to sort things out, and they have a lot to address. More than most teams, the Titans stand closer on the knife edge between poor and excellent, and nothing in between. To be fair, this is the first time this year the team has not looked competitive, but in my mind, a team with this much talent should never look that way. Get it together Munchak.