Titans beats Bucs 30-17 as QBs seek consistency
TAMPA, Fla.—There's still time left in the preseason to make some tweaks, with neither Tennessee nor Tampa Bay where they want to be at the quarterback position yet.
For the Titans, Friday night was supposed to be a coming-out party for second-year Washington product Jake Locker in his first NFL start.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers were hoping their second preseason game would be one in which Josh Freeman would begin to find chemistry with his revamped receiving corps.
The result? A combined 8 for 21 passing in the Titans' 30-7 win.
"There is disappointment personally," said Locker, who was 4 for 11 with an interception playing in all but one series of the first half. "But with the guys doing so well on the run game and the defense doing so well, we still found ways to score points and have a big lead going into the second half. So that was encouraging."
Freeman, whose team took an early 7-0 lead on his 2-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams before trailing off the rest of the way, said he isn't panicking about where the offense is right now.
"It's definitely a chance to go out and get some game-like experience and learn from it," said Freeman, who was 4 for 10 for 21 yards. "Point blank, that's what the preseason is about. It's tune-up games; it's a chance for the coaches to go out and evaluate guys.
"I thought a number of guys stepped up tonight."
And also for the Titans.
Chris Johnson ran for two touchdowns and Rob Bironas kicked three field goals as Tennessee (No. 21 in the AP Pro32) capitalized on some early turnovers to seize control after the Bucs' early score.
The Titans turned two first-half turnovers by the Bucs (No. 26) into points.
"It was about defense. These guys came out and got a bunch of three-and-outs," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "They got two turnovers and it led to points for us ... That's encouraging for us to see."
Munchak said Locker "made a bad decision on the one throw" but otherwise bounced back well.
Defensively, Tennessee linebacker Zach Brown and tackle Jurrell Casey led the way with six tackles, while linebacker Dekoda Watson had four stops and a sack for Tampa Bay.
The bigger issue for the Bucs was running back LeGarrette Blount leaving the game late in the first half with a groin injury. But afterward coach Greg Schiano said he didn't expect the third-year back to miss much time.
Blount took a shot to his left leg late in the second quarter, and stayed down on the field for several minutes before finally ambling to his feet and gingerly walking off the field flanked by trainers.
"It's not a knee, it's more up in his groin area. He just got bent a funny way," Schiano said. "LeGarrette's a tough kid and I don't think it is something that will sideline him too long. But if it does, we'll deal with that."
Blount said he wasn't stressing over it.
"I'll be back soon. I'll be good," he said. "I haven't had an injury like it. I've had nicks and bruises. That's kind of what it is. ... It hurt. It's just something that we're going to have to look into tomorrow."
Though most of Tampa's starters had been pulled at the time of his injury Blount, last year's starting running back, darted through the right side of the line and was struck by a defender on his leg as he dived forward.
He didn't return to the game, but remained sitting on the sideline in uniform during the second half.
If Blount does have to miss any time, the Bucs can be encouraged by the continued productive preseason of Boise State rookie tailback Doug Martin, who led the team with 23 yards on seven carries.
In his second season, Locker was looking to impress the coaching staff enough in hopes of earning the starting job over veteran Matt Hasselbeck. But he got off to a very rocky start.
Locker had a serviceable outing replacing Hasselbeck in the Titans' loss to open the preseason last week, but completed 1 of his first 4 attempts against the Bucs.
Locker did have a few highlights, his biggest coming two series after his pick when he scrambled 21 yards on a broken play to set up a 14-yard touchdown run by Johnson to make it 7-7 late in the first quarter.
The play capped a dominating five-play, 71-yard drive that took just 2:26. Locker had his best throw of the game during that series, completing an 11-yard pass to Craig Stevens.
But Locker's struggles stuck out more. They included him failing to lead his team into the end zone early in the second quarter after Titans defensive end Leger Douzable recovered a fumble by Tampa backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky on the Bucs' 10.
Johnson didn't have the same troubles producing when he got a chance to score, adding a second 14-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter that was setup by Chris Hawkins' interception of Orlovsky.
Johnson finished with 46 yards on 10 carries.
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