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Jake Locker Shows Grit in Return to Titans

Posted Oct 20, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jake Locker made one comeback, but the Titans were unable to orchestrate another in a 31-17 loss to the 49ers Sunday at LP Field.

Jake Locker returned to action and threw for 326 yards and two TDs for the Titans. Click here for a slideshow from the game.

Locker, who suffered hip and knee injuries Sept. 29, was cleared for contact earlier in the week and returned to the starting lineup after watching the past two games from the sideline.

“I think that was part of the hurdle for me throughout the week was getting to that point where I, mentally, as much as physically, would be able to go out there and not protect myself from any situation,” Locker said. “If I felt that that’s what I was going to do, I felt like I’d be putting our team at a disadvantage and that wasn’t something I wanted to do. 

“One of my goals through last week was to make sure that when I got in the game Sunday, I didn’t have any apprehension,” Locker continued. “I wasn’t worried when I got hit. I wasn’t hoping that something didn’t happen, a re-injury.  I treated it like I always had and that’s how I hoped I would going into the game.”

The Titans’ offense sputtered to sustain drives early in the game, but showed grit in the fourth quarter, feeding off the intensity of the third-year pro and second-year starting QB.

Locker completed 25 of 41 passes for 326 yards with two touchdowns and one interception (his first of the season) for a passer rating of 92.1. Locker led the Titans (3-4) on three scoring drives in the fourth quarter that accounted for all the Titans points, but it wasn’t enough against the 49ers (5-2).

The first began late in the third quarter and used 11 plays to cover 67 yards before Rob Bironas capped it with a 31-yard field goal. The second drive lasted just 35 seconds (a 20-yard completion to Kendall Wright and a 66-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass to Chris Johnson).

Johnson’s 50th career TD pulled the Titans within 24-10 with 7:07 remaining, and Tennessee’s defense forced a punt by San Francisco, but the return was muffed by Darius Reynaud at the 11-yard line and recovered in the end zone by Kassim Osgood for a touchdown that gave the 49ers a 31-10 lead.

Reynaud returned the ensuing kick 39 yards, and the Titans responded with a 10-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 26-yard pass to former 49ers tight end Delanie Walker, who joined the Titans this offseason as a free agent after seven seasons in San Francisco.

“(Jake) played great.  We have to help our quarterback,” Walker said. “We’ve got to do everything in our power to make sure he looks good, and we didn’t do that.  We had dropped balls and penalties, especially when we were moving the ball, and something like that would set us right back.”

Wright tied a career-high with nine receptions and had 98 yards to lead the Titans. Wright went past the 100-career receptions mark in his 22nd career game. He said it was good to reconnect with Locker before the bye week. Tennessee returns to action at St. Louis on Nov. 3.  

“He played real hard. I think he had a good game just coming off the injury as fast as he came back,” Wright said. “It’s good for us and good for him to get back out earlier. He’s got another full week to rest his knee and hip and get back to work when we come back.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said the staff trusted that Locker would be able to protect himself and be effective. Munchak said it was good for Locker to resume game activity so the span between the injury and the game against the Rams wouldn’t be more than a month.

“I thought it was good for him. The outcome is not going to be the judgment of whether he should play or not. It was more the fact now of what he thought he can do now,” Munchak said. “He’s not going to have to play for two weeks, so he has that behind him now. It’s not another two weeks of not playing football. So, the good thing is he played a lot of football today. He made some plays. He scrambled around quite a bit when he had to.  He took some hits. He made some good decisions. He threw the one interception, but I thought it was good for him. He seemed to feel good after the game.”

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