For the second straight week, Titans QB Jake Locker had a slow start. He sprayed balls behind, to the outside and out of the reach of his wide receivers at the beginning of Thursday night's game against the Arizona Cardinals -- which the Titans ended up winning, 32-27.
Appearing in his first start since being named the Titans' starting quarterback for the upcoming season, Locker opened 3 of 8 for 19 yards. His accuracy struggles were reminiscent of his performance last week vs. Tampa Bay, when he had a 0.0 rating late in the second quarter.
Locker then demonstrated why the Titans' brass is ready for him to take command of the offense. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft completed 5 of his next 8 passes for 95 yards in orchestrating a 17-3 lead.
Two plays in particular exemplified Locker's continued development. Operating from the shotgun on a third and 3 late in the first quarter, Locker looked off his first read to wide receiver Nate Washington and connected with Kendall Wright on a pivot route along the right sidelines. Wright eluded a tackle from Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson for a 29-yard gain.
Five plays later, Locker expertly read the defense on another third-down conversion. Facing a six-man rush with Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson creeping toward the line, Locker changed his protection before the snap. As tight end Jared Cook and Washington crossed along the middle of the field, Cook set a pick for Washington on Cardinals cornerback William Gay. It enabled Washington to burst free for a 28-yard touchdown.
Titans coach Mike Munchak was impressed with how Locker changed the protection on the play. It was one of a handful of protections Locker changed on the night.
“He changed the protection to keep (the rush) from being hot,” Munchak said. “We were sliding the opposite way, he would have had to get rid of the ball a lot faster, which means he wouldn't have had time to make that throw.”
Locker finished 11 of 20 for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns. A week after finishing with a 7.0 quarterback rating, Locker posted a rating of 109.2.
“I thought it was hot and cold from drive to drive,” Locker said. “I felt a little more comfortable today. We were able to have some big plays and some chunk plays that helped flip the field and allowed us to put some points on the board.”
Mariani out for the season with fractured tibia: Wide receiver/returner Marc Mariani is out for the season after fracturing his left tibia on a punt return in the first quarter.
Mariani made a cut and headed upfield when his ankle got caught under a pile. It appeared that Mariani took an awkward step after being contacted by Titans linebackers Patrick Bailey and Zac Diles. Bailey had his back toward Mariani and didn't see the play.
“It was just some fluke thing that happened -- he was making a great return on that play,” Bailey said. “When I saw him on the ground, he looked like he was in pain, so I was calling for people to come over. You could tell by his facial expressions that something was hurting.”
Mariani was undergoing surgery on his leg as Munchak conducted his postgame press conference.
“I feel terrible for him,” Munchak said. “He was a guy who the quarterbacks really counted on and trusted. It's a big loss for us. That's something in football you don't want to see -- it's hard to see that and continue on with the game.”
Wimbley, a marquee free agent acquisition, had two sacks and three quarterback hits in a quarter and a half. On Arizona's first offensive play of the game, the seventh-year defensive end beat Young for a sack of Cardinals QB John Skelton. In the second quarter after Kevin Kolb relieved Skelton, Wimbley dipped under Young off the right edge and sacked the sixth-year quarterback.
“I just felt that sacks were coming,” Wimbley said. “On the one-on-ones, I took advantage of those opportunities.”
McCourty signs an extension: Before the game, cornerback Jason McCourty agreed to terms on a five-year, $43 million contract extension, ESPN reported. The extension includes $20 million guaranteed, according to ESPN.
McCourty has become the leader of the secondary after departure of veteran defensive backs Cortland Finnegan and Chris Hope in the offseason. McCourty was pleased to complete the deal before the start of the regular season.
“It's a blessing -- I can't thank the organization enough,” McCourty said. “Both parties know there's a business-side to everything; it's good to get it out of the way.”
McCourty, a fourth-year cornerback from Rutgers, recorded a career-high 107 tackles last season and led the team with 13 pass defenses.
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