It is no surprise that the Tennessee Titans offense looked sluggish out of the gates in Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. With Jake Locker sidelined due to a hip injury, a much less electric Ryan Fitzpatrick was in charge in his first start for Tennessee.
The Titans went three and out on each of their first five possessions and did not score until their first drive of the second half. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick missed on each of his first six passes before eventually hitting his stride in the third quarter.
However, the Titans missed Locker most in the game’s waning minutes, as Fitzpatrick threw two late interceptions on consecutive drives when Tennessee had the chance to take the lead. Coincidentally, much of Locker’s best play this season has come in similar clutch drive situations. In fact, in the last two minutes of each half this season, Locker has completed an incredible 77 percent of his passes for 7.77 yards per attempt and two touchdowns.
The third year quarterback ranks fifth in the NFL in Total QBR this year, which takes key drive performance and total team impact into account, in addition to regular statistics. Locker’s 99-yard touchdown drive to take the lead with four minutes left against the Texans and his 94-yard touchdown drive to take the lead with 15 seconds left against the Chargers surely helped inflate his ranking.
The Titans could have used some of Locker’s late-game magic Sunday when they got the ball with about 6 and a half minutes left, down by three. Instead, with Fitzpatrick at the helm, Tennessee turned the ball over on the first play of the drive, as Kansas City’s Marcus Cooper intercepted a badly thrown ball.
Luckily, the stout Titans defense held the Chiefs to only a field goal, so Tennessee regained possession with 4:10 left and a six point deficit to overcome. Again, Fitzpatrick was intercepted with the game on the line.
It is clear Fitzpatrick does not share the clutch gene with Locker, so the Titans will need a faster start in Locker’s absence to have any chance for victory next week against the Seahawks.