Last week’s mauling of the Miami Dolphins may have taught us a lot or very little about this Tennessee Titans team. For one, they know how to respond to adversity. On the other hand, they were playing a team that was having an infamously bad day. Attribute the Dolphins’ ineptitude to whatever you want, but they didn’t seem to be anywhere close to the team they had been the first half of the season.
Still, there are some important things to take away from this rout. Chris Johnson is clearly back, and he’s back with a reborn offensive line that is paving holes to daylight on par with the best offensive lines in the league. Our defense played lights out when it needed to, forcing turnovers that we haven’t seen all season. The team as a whole played with a different, fiery passion for some reason.
It was clear Sunday that the team on the field was a different one than we had seen at any point in the season. We had witnessed our beloved team lose games by 21 points, 28, 24, 23, 31 … It was beyond embarrassing and disheartening, but finally our team was on the flip-side of one of those victories. Thankfully, it was by 34 points; more than our worst loss. Why the sudden change of heart in our team?
Enter Jake Locker.
I assume Bud Adams’ public indictment had all players scrambling for their jock straps and coaches designing new game plans. But while many suggest that was the reason for the sudden turnaround in performance, I look no further than the quarterback position. For this game, we got our starting quarterback back. As much as Matt Hasselbeck helped keep the season on track with some gutsy performances, he wasn’t our starting quarterback. He was holding it down until Locker came back from a shoulder injury that cost him nearly all of the previous games.
Locker was coming off probably the best performance of his career against the Detroit Lions before he fractured/separated his shoulder against the Houston Texans. Hasselbeck came in and, along with a good amount of stinkers, pulled out two emotional wins that have turned out huge. Still, Locker offers more upside in terms of his physical skill set. From an explosive arm to 4.5 40-time speed with his legs. Then there’s the things that all scouts and coaches talk about: intangibles.
Speaking of those, Jake has all of them. And it’s clear to see, judging by the win against the Dolphins. It’s no coincidence that when Locker comes back the defense starts making plays, the receivers start beating their cover corners a bit more consistently, and the offense is seamlessly back in sync.
Of course, we have to consider the fact that when Locker was in there for the first two games of the season we got blown up. The Patriots and the Chargers whipped us to the point of embarrassment. Then in the third game against the Lions, we needed huge plays from the defense and special teams to pull out a win in which we gave up 41 points. It wasn’t pretty, but you don’t know how the following games would have turned out should Locker had been healthy for all of them.
Would they have looked as good as they did against the Dolphins? Would they have looked as bad as they did against the Patriots and Chargers?
I have no idea.
There’s something to be said about the quarterback position, though. It’s their team, and the team responds to its quarterback. All the time. Whether they respond negatively or positively is dependent on a number of different variables. What we know is that this team responded to its quarterback last Sunday. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, or perhaps this team just needed its quarterback.
Either way, we have Locker back right now and it just seems much better this way. Here’s to hoping his presence starts a winning streak. And turns our defense into a swarming sea of turnover-hungry fiends, ready to spring this team into a playoff push.
A man can dream, right?