Growing pains really can hurt
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Everyone expected there to be growing pains when Jake Locker made his first NFL start Sunday for the Titans against New England.
But they turned out to cause a lot more physical pain than is usually expected.
If the second-year pro had his playbook out between drives Sunday he might have noted in the margins a few new things to remember.
Lesson 1: You’re a quarterback, not a linebacker.
At least the Washington alum lowered his non-throwing shoulder when he took on Pats safety Patrick Chung in what turned out to not be a fumble return but an incomplete pass.
It could have been worse. He could have used his throwing arm when he tried to take Chung off his feet and slam him into the grass of LP Field.
Locker came off holding his left arm and veteran starter Matt Hasselbeck took off his baseball hat, put on a helmet and finished off the drive while the staff evaluated the quarterback of tomorrow’s shoulder.
Lesson 2: The Patriots play a physical, big defense, the kind that likes to wallop people. A younger, faster offense can move better and make the bigger plays.
It’s not always Alabama destroying the University of Washington, especially in the NFL. It’s a lot harder to hit someone when they’re flying by.
Nate Washington got drilled twice on balls that were hanging or without enough lead on them. With the wideouts already thin through roster cuts and Kenny Britt’s one-game suspension, the Titans couldn’t afford to lose weapons or fire them into ricochet targets.
Bottom line is not to get your receivers killed when they can run away.
Lesson 3: Efficiency is everything.
Hasselbeck’s a decent enough veteran role model, but there’s a lot to take from the example set on the field — best to ignore anything off the grass — by Tom Brady. The 13-year pro isn’t so much prolific — on the field — as efficient.
Brady moved up a couple spots Sunday — No. 5 on career touchdown list, 33 games with at least one aerial score, fastest to 125 wins in NFL history, 14th guy to go over 40,000 yards passing — so there’s something to be said for the way he executes New England’s system.
Sure the numbers matched — 23-of-31 for Brady vs. 23-of-32 for Locker with only seven yards separating the two — but the other items mattered more. The Pats were 6-for-12 on third-down tries, the zero in the turnovers column showed part of the difference and the mix of the run game that dominated the Titans’ effort showed more.
“They played well better than we did,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “it’s disappointing definitely, but it’s what we take from it and learn before we get to San Diego.”
The Patriots are where Tennessee wants to get back to, a perennial contender in the title talk, someone that’s more than a bragging rights bet in Vegas to tell the buddies about. But it wasn’t just a better quarterback for New England that made the difference or that showed examples of how to go about things.
Hopefully some Titans besides Locker also took a few notes.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, follow him on Twitter at TDT_Sports. He wrote from Nashville.