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Mistakes Cost Titans in Season Opening Loss

Posted Sep 9, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Mistakes, blown chances, and a long day for quarterback Jake Locker in his first career start for the Tennessee Titans.

Not a winning formula, especially when the New England Patriots are the opponent.

Locker threw for 229 yards and a touchdown, but had two turnovers and was sacked twice as the Patriots beat the Titans 34-13 on Sunday.

The Titans also missed tackles and couldn't stick with the Patriots' bruising tight ends on defense. They sacked Tom Brady once, and Kamerion Wimbley may have broken the Patriots' quarterback's nose on the play.

It wasn't enough. By a lot.

"When you play a good football team as we knew the Patriots are, as they have been for quite a few years now, you cannot make mistakes,'' coach Mike Munchak said. "You can't blow opportunities.''

Locker, the eighth overall pick of 2011, made some tough throws. He also made some mistakes with his first interception and losing the ball while sacked near his own end zone. Patriots rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower picked up the ball and ran 6 yards for a touchdown.

"You wish those things don't happen, which ended up being seven points,'' Munchak said. "He's so competitive.''

Locker said he made a bad decision throwing into soft coverage on the pass picked off by Tavon Wilson in the second quarter and that he knows he must take better care of the ball in the pocket. He hurt his left, non-throwing shoulder in the fourth quarter while trying to make a tackle on a fumble recovery. The play was overturned when it was ruled an incomplete pass.

"We would rather him not go in there and tackle anybody,'' Munchak said.

Backup Matt Hasselbeck finished the game for Tennessee.

"It just got banged up a little bit, but it was something that I felt like I could go back into the game,'' Locker said. "I will get some treatment on it and feel good about being able to play (next) Sunday.''

The Titans weren't happy at the failure of the replacement officials on three different passes into the end zone they thought deserved pass interference calls. Munchak said there always will be calls they believe are missed by officials.

The first came on the opening drive when Devin McCourty helped break up a pass to Damian Williams in the end zone. The second wound up an interception by Patriots rookie Tavon Wilson on a pass to Washington. The third came with Chung defending Jared Cook in the fourth quarter that left the Titans tight end pleading his case to an official.

Williams had an opinion on the lack of a flag, but refused to criticize the officials, who also needed replay to overturn the on-field ruling of an interception by McCourty in the third quarter that squirted out when he hit the ground.

The Titans even had former Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt on hand, not that she could help them stop or even slow Brady - despite spending the offseason prepping for the teams' first meeting since being routed 59-0 in New England in October 2009.

Brady threw five TD passes in one quarter that day. He didn't match that Sunday, but didn't need to with Stevan Ridley providing plenty of help on the ground as the Patriots outgained Tennessee 390-284.

The Titans couldn't match Brady's efficiency and had to settle twice for field goals of 28 and 24 yards by Rob Bironas. Locker did find Nate Washington on a 29-yard TD in the third quarter even with Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones grabbing the quarterback.

Brady put the Patriots up 7-3 with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez late in the first quarter, capping a 67-yard drive. It was Brady's 301st career pass, surpassing John Elway for fifth in TD passes in NFL history. It also marked his 33rd straight game with a TD pass. He found Rob Gronkowski on a 2-yard TD pass just before halftime for a 21-3 lead.

The Patriots' work boosting their defense through the draft showed early dividends. Jones sacked Locker and forced a fumble that Hightower ran in for a 14-3 lead in the second quarter.

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