The Tennessee Titans made short work of the New York Jets on Sunday, but the 38-13 victory may have been costly.
The Titans lost starting quarterback Jake Locker to a hip injury, and it is not known how long he might be out.
Locker was carted off the field with 11:14 to play in the third quarter after taking a hit from Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples after throwing an incompletion.
Once the game was over, there were more questions than answers regarding Locker's status for the foreseeable future.
Locker was taken by ambulance to St. Thomas Midtown Hospital to be evaluated. Munchak did say that team doctors and trainers did not believe the hip was dislocated from their initial assessment.
“I don't think anything they saw on the field (indicated) that nothing had popped out. That's what they said. That's where it was sore, leg pain in general right there. So it was just a matter of getting him off the field and getting an opportunity to look at it and assess right now,” Munchak said.
The Titans were comfortably ahead when Locker went down, and went on to rout the Jets to improve to 3-1, but the potential loss of their starting quarterback certainly leaves a sting.
“This is the worst I've felt after a victory like this in a long time. I don't know what's gonna happen, but I know he was hurt. If he misses one play in the game, then he was in pain,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said.
Prior to that, Locker had dominated the Jets, completing 18 of 24 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns.
The Titans defense harassed Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith right from the start, as Alterraun Verner picked off Smith's first pass of the day, setting up quick Titans touchdown.
Locker hit Delanie Walker from a yard out to cap that drive and give Tennessee a 7-0 advantage. Tennessee made the score 10-0 when Rob Bironas nailed a 26-yard field goal on the next drive.
After the Jets managed a 45-yard Nick Folk field goal on the first play of the second quarter, the Titans looked as if they would take a 10-3 lead into the half, but Zach Brown stripped Smith of the football on a scramble, and Verner came up with the fumble recovery.
Locker capitalized, finding Nate Washington for a four-yard touchdown to give Tennessee a 17-3 edge.
After another Folk field goal cut the to 17-6, the Titans caught another break when
Verner picked off his second pass of the game and returned it to the Jets 46.
From there, Locker then drove the Titans into position at the 16-yard line and found Justin Hunter for his second touchdown catch in as many receptions, as the rookie hauled in the TD toss with two seconds left on the clock. Hunter went up and grabbed the ball and the Titans led 24-6.
“I would never think they would be throwing that many jump balls to me like that, but they have,” Hunter said.
Jets coach Rex Ryan said he knew what was coming.
“The only time they put that kid in the game is to throw the jump ball and there's a reason he came down with it,” Ryan said.
Things didn't get any easier for the Jets in the second half, even after Locker went out as Smith was sacked near the goal line by Karl Klug. Smith fumbled, and Klug recovered in the end zone to make the score, 31-13.
“It was a screen play, I'm pretty sure. It was kind of a lucky play because on screen plays, you're not generally supposed to get sacks. But our backers or whoever was covering that screen must have been doing a hell of a job,” Klug said.
“Anytime you get a rookie quarterback, sometimes you can fluster them a little bit. We were able to put pressure on him early and often and just keep doing it the whole game.”
Smith, who had four turnovers Sunday, finally led the Jets to a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, firing a pass to Jeff Cumberland for a 34-yard touchdown.
But the Titans tacked on one more TD when Ryan Fitzpatrick, who would now appear to be Tennessee's starter at least in the short term found Nate Washington for a 77-yard score. Washington not only left Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie laying on the ground, but also left the back judge there as well.
And while the win improved the Titans to 3-1 on the season, the question now centers around Locker going forward.
“The reason I was brought here was to help Jake out and be ready for a situation like this if it came up,” Fitzpatrick said. “... For me now, if he's not in there, then this is why they brought me here.”