INDIANAPOLIS _ Someday it may be a matter of when Jake Locker breaks through and becomes the type of quarterback who can lead the Tennessee Titans to victories with the game on the line.
But right now, it is still a matter of if Locker can do the sorts of things that top NFL quarterbacks are expected to do.
Locker was brilliant in the first half of Sunday's 27-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, completing 15 of 20 for 213 yards and a score in the first two quarters.
But in the second half, the Titans young quarterback and his team came unraveled. He hit just 7 of 15 passes for 49 yards and was picked off twice, including once on the goal line by Cassius Vaughn for a Colts touchdown. Overall, Tennessee had just 86 yards of total offense after halftime.
To his credit, Locker is quick to take the blame for his mistakes, and the Titans are quick to say that the coaches and rest of the offense have to do more to help Locker in his development.
“It was one I shouldn't have thrown,” Locker said of the play. “I should be able to handle that position.”
Coach Mike Munchak said the Titans should not have put Locker in that situation to begin with, and should have called a safer play in the shadow of their own end zone.
“It's on us too. When we're that far down, we've had that concept in, we've done it before,” Munchak said. “It's a choice thing. You take the sneak, throw the ball. We obviously should have just ran the sneak. That's a bad decision by Jake and it 's a bad decision by us to have even put him in that situation.”
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said he still likes Locker's approach and toughness as his quarterback.
“I don't think that's an indictment of the way he played whatsoever. I think you guys saw the way he played down in the red zone, fighting for a yardage and making plays. But everyone needs to step up,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “When I say mental toughness, when you get an 18-play drive, you've got to finish. That's what this league is about, finishing plays and finishing drives.”
Said Locker, “We just have to keep working hard. It's hard to keep saying it and not have the outcome you want. You have to keep working hard and preparing and doing everything you can to be successful when you get in those situations.”
The Titans have been in those situations now three times this season in games decided by a touchdown or less with Locker as the starter. They are 1-2 with the one win somewhat skewed as well because the Titans actually blew a 14-point lead late to Detroit before rallying to win in overtime.
On Sunday, Tennessee built a 20-7 lead as the offense clicked in the first half, and actually rallied once to regain the lead, but squandered two chances on drives late after the Colts had taken a 23-21 advantage.
“He knows he made a couple of mistakes in the game without a doubt,” Munchak said. “He started off playing very well. He ran well, got out of a lot of trouble, but he made a couple of bad decisions with the ball, just like (Andrew) Luck did a few times.”
The difference is, of course, that Luck and other young quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Andy Dalton are winning as they learn, something the Titans have not done a lot of.
Teammates say they believe in Locker and see the improvement in his play.
“He's gotten a lot better. He knows the offense and knows what we're doing. We know anytime he's in that huddle, we've got a chance,” tackle Michael Roos said.
While certainly not all the fault lies with Locker, the simple fact of being a first-round pick at quarterback means both the credit and the blame will fall on him. And in today's win now NFL, patience is no longer a virtue that can be afforded very much.
“I think winning cures all. I think you get through these tough moments, you learn a lot about your team and you learn a lot about each other. But we need to win a close game,” Loggains said.
Tight end Jared Cook suffered a shoulder injury in the game and did not return. Also, defensive end Scott Solomon tweaked his knee and could not finish the game.
Defensive end Derrick Morgan finished the game but had ice on his hand afterward.