While last week’s game against the New England Patriots didn’t include many highlights for the Tennessee Titans, there were glimpses of our offense’s potential. The most notable and exciting play for the Titans was certainly Jake Locker’s 29-yard TD pass to Nate Washington in the 3rd quarter.
Let’s take a look at the pre-snap screenshot of the play. The Titans have the ball inside the Patriots 30-yard line with 1st and 10. Locker is in the shotgun with 4 wide receivers and Chris Johnson in the backfield. Lavelle Hawkins (wide) and Jared Cook (slot) are at the top of the screen, with Kendall Wright (slot) and Nate Washington (wide) at the bottom. The Patriots are lined up with 2 deep safeties.
At the snap of the ball the Patriots rush 4, while the cornerbacks (3) and linebackers (2) play man coverage on the 4 receivers and CJ. Both sets of receivers run crossing routes, attempting to pick the defenders, giving Locker an easy completion to the inside or in the flats. CJ runs up the middle of the field for a short curl, making him Locker’s safety valve on the play. At the bottom of the screen you can see Wright with space to the outside, and Locker appears to have good protection and plenty of time to go through his progression.
However, the protection breaks down, and rookie defensive end Chandler Jones (#95) comes through the middle of the line. At 6-5 and 260 pounds, Jones is an imposing force as well as an impressive athlete, and Locker looks to be in trouble with only CJ in the vicinity.
Jones gets to Locker and appears to be wrapping him up for a sack, when Locker fires a bullet from the 40-yard line without setting his feet. I’ll admit, when I saw this play live on TV, I was worried. There’s no receiver in the screen at all, so you have to assume he’s targeting someone downfield. Even with Jones hanging all over him, Locker slings the ball downfield with incredible velocity.
Locker’s ability to extend the play has given Washington time to readjust his original route, and now he’s streaking to the sideline in between the cornerback and safety. The ball hits Washington perfectly in stride, and he turns it up field for a nifty 29-yard score.
While the Titans obviously struggled to get the ball into the end zone, this play should really excite the fans. It epitomizes the reasons for starting Locker this season. While Hasselbeck is certainly the more experienced quarterback, Locker’s arm strength and ability to extend the play are what truly separate the two. And Nate Washington deserves credit for seeing that his quarterback was in trouble, and then adjusting his route to provide Locker a window downfield. Locker turned a potential sack and loss of 10 into a 29-yard gem of a throw, capping off a 4-play 80-yard drive that hopefully foreshadows a more explosive Titans offense in the future.
Follow David Fleming @dfleming22