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Locker-less Titans Fall Imperfectly Against Perfect Chiefs

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Ryan Fitzpatrick throws (likely an incomplete pass) against Kansas City. Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images.
Ryan Fitzpatrick throws (likely an incomplete pass) against Kansas City. Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images.

On Sunday, the Tennessee Titans really missed Jake Locker – at least it seemed that way. The Titans played nothing like the Titans of the first four weeks of this season. It was odd to see, but then it was not unbelievable. Did Tennessee finally fall back to reality?

Maybe.

Perhaps the biggest reason why the Titans are 3-2 and not 4-1: a slow start, turnovers and missed opportunities. That’s probably the story of every losing team on a week-to-week basis, right? Yes, but the thing is that the Titans had not been that team. Not this season.

The Titans had been using a simple blueprint to get to 3-1 so far this season -- sure-handed offensively and advantageous of opponents’ mistakes. That didn’t happen against Kansas City.

SLOW START

Tennessee didn’t gain their first first down until the 7:54 mark of the second quarter. They were down 13-0 at the half while being outgained 224-87 in total yardage. To put all that into perspective, last week against the Jets, the Titans led 24-6 at that same point. I know the Chiefs aren’t the Jets, but let’s be real. It was a nightmarish start for Tennessee. To add injury to insult, Ryan Fitzpatrick (who started for the injured Locker) finished the first half 5 of 14 for 31 yards. He didn’t exactly light things up.

TURNOVERS

The Titans committed three turnovers – which were their firsts of the season -- against the Chiefs, which were promptly cashed in for 13 huge points. That wasn’t happening in the first four games for the Titans. When you hand-give your opponent 13 free points, you probably aren’t winning many of those games. Much less against a Chiefs team that was coming in tied with Tennessee with the league-lead in turnover ratio. Turnovers can always be avoided; the Titans just did a bad job of doing that, or simply, the ball didn’t bounce their way. Literally.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Perhaps the biggest of the biggest was late in the second quarter. The Titans had finally gotten over the hump, offensively, and were moving the football. It seemed that Fitzpatrick had finally settled in. Unfortunately, so did the Chiefs defense – at protecting their goal line. The Titans had four opportunities to score from the 1-yard line. FOUR. Instead of cutting, what was a 10-0 lead at the time down to 10-7, they ended up squandering all momentum they had squeezed out of the Chiefs paws. Kansas City went on to add another three points right before half.

Though, despite all of that, they still had an opportunity to win. They even took a 17-13 lead momentarily, but that didn’t last long either. If there’s anything positive to come out of a game like this is that the Titans competed. Without Locker and without pitching a perfect game. They fought back after being down and still almost won a game that they had no business winning. But there are no moral victories in the NFL. None.

The difference between 3-2 and 4-1 is ginormous. The biggest thing we found out Sunday is that Locker means more to this Titans team that we actually thought.

The biggest question that arose from this game is the same one we’ve been asking for the past week: when is Locker returning?

If it’s not soon, this could turn out to be one of those “what-if” seasons for the Titans, and this 3-2 start, which is still solid, will be in vain.