I’d like to introduce a new feature called The Turning Point. Similar to our excellent Play of the Week series by David Fleming, this feature will analyze the play that had the most impact on the course of the Tennessee Titans’ game. It may be a good play or bad play on any given week; either way we will break it down and see why it succeeded or failed, as well as the ramifications it had on the game moving forward.
In this game, we are going to look at a decision Jake Locker made at the 8:10 mark halfway through the first-quarter that allowed San Diego to begin their runaway with the game so early on. (Note that you can click the pictures for a full-screen view)
We see in the above play that the Titans are lined up in a basic 3 WR/1 TE Shotgun formation, with Kendall Wright as the right-side wide receiver, Kenny Britt as the slot receiver, Damian Williams as left-side receiver, and Jared Cook as the tight end. The Chargers in a basic 4-3 defense, with the strong safety showing blitz.
Roughly a second into the play, the protection looks good, with nobody threatening to penetrate, and an at-attention Chris Johnson seemingly waiting to pick up the blitz. As Wright is the first option on the play, Locker is looking to his right, but the linebacker seems all too aware of whats coming and is laying in wait for Locker to make that throw. Cook is well covered in the middle of the field, while Williams is on the left side in perfect position for at least a 7-10 yard play right now, as is Kenny Britt for about 5.
Another second has passed and the protection has already given way. The left end of the Chargers has disengaged right tackle David Stewart from the block and is barreling down towards Locker. Locker has already pushed to the right of the field a bit, but there are three things that jump out about this picture as disconcerting.
The first is that, after all of this time, Locker has still yet to look to the left side of the field. He has only now progressed through his reads to the middle of the field, and would need at least two more seconds of play to make his way right; far too much time in today’s NFL. Also, this wasn’t exactly an exotic defense. 4-3 defenses can be extremely effective, but are not necessarily known to confuse quarterbacks.
Secondly, notice how CJ is in the exact same stance, but turned around 180 degrees? Notice how he has absolutely no one he is blocking, nor pursuing with intent to block? This is a problem.
Lastly, in the screenshot above, not one receiver can be found anywhere within roughly ten yards from the line of scrimmage, let alone 15 from Locker. How can we not have any safety valve for our first-year-starting quarterback? If Johnson isn’t blocking anybody, can’t he at least go out on a delay?
A 1/2 second later, and it’s all on Locker from here. I know we all really like Locker, and want to give him a pass, but he really can not make this throw. His form is incredibly poor, and while I understand he’s trying to make a play for the team, he’s got to throw it out of bounds at least if he’s not willing to take the sack.
Also, CJ? Really? Now you decide to go out for your delay?
Notice Locker has gone the whole play without looking to his left side.
Locker has had a tendency to sail his balls in the air, and this pass was a perfect example of that, combined with outright overthrowing his receiver. While it makes his balls super-catchable for his receivers, it also makes it easier on the corners. As evidenced above.
Eric Weddle, who made the pick, would go on for another ten or so before he was brought down. Not sure if Britt is trying to look hard after a horrible play by the offense, or just staring down in disbelief like so many Titans fans.
The reason this was so devastating to us as a team on Sunday was that San Diego had just scored a touchdown the series before. They would then go on to score another touchdown on this drive making it 14 – 0, and pretty much putting the game out of reach for us, as we would only go on to score ten points in the entire game. The Titans lost the game 38 – 10.
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