Titans’ last chance sacked away

Titans’ last chance sacked away
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
NASHVILLE — Who ‘dat’?
Unfortunately in the end, not the Titans.
New Orleans sacked Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker on the game’s final play at its own nine, salvaging a 22-17 Saints win Sunday at LP Field.
The Titans rallied behind Locker — who relieved injured starter Matt Hasselbeck in the second period — and had a shot at beating New Orleans and quieting its traveling legions of fans at the final whistle when Locker hooked up with Nate Washington for a 40-yard pass to the Saints five with just seven seconds left.
After an incompletion, though, Locker was flushed from the pocket to the right side and dropped by Jo-Lonn Dundbar without getting off a possible game-winning pass attempt.
The win was the NFC South Division-leading Saints’ (10-3) fifth straight and dropped playoff-hopeful Tennessee to 7-6. The Titans can no longer win the AFC South after Houston clinched the league title Sunday, but are still in the race for a wildcard berth with a handful of other teams.
Locker, the rookie University of Washington first-round draft pick who has sat most all season behind the veteran Hasselbeck, earlier threw a 40-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Washington to draw Tennessee within the final margin with 5:58 to play.
He was briefly knocked out of the game on his team’s next possession that died on downs at the Saints 23 with just over two minutes left, but sat just one play and came back to almost pull off the unthinkable heroics on the Titans’ last series.
“It was a hard way to lose a football game,” first-year Titans head coach Mike Munchak said afterward. “Obviously, we put ourselves in a great position there at the end. We ended up having two shots. I wish we’d have had another, but the play took too long to develop. He (Locker) tried to make a play.
“I mean you wish the ball was thrown somewhere. But I’m am not going to second-guess anything he did. You never want to take that away from a guy.”
Locker ended up completing 13-of-29 passes for 282 yards also ran for another 36 yards and a TD on a six-yard bootleg late in the third quarter.
Despite his efforts and solid play, however, Locker was clearly just the second-best QB on the field.
Record-setting Saints signal-caller Drew Brees threw for 337 yards (36-of-47) and for two touchdowns to Marques Colston in the fourth period when New Orleans erased a 10-9 deficit.
Brees, who entered the game with more than 4,000 passing yards through just 12 games, threw for 300 or more for the 10th time this season Sunday, tying a mark by Peyton Manning. He tossed a TD aerial for the 40th straight game and is No. 2 on that all-time list and just seven behind Johnny Unitas.
The Saints’ top-ranked offense (448 ypg) had to settle for three John Kasay field goals after threatening on long, time-consuming marches before the telling final period.
Tennessee got a 43-yard field goal from Rob Bironas in the second quarter to tie the game at 3 after Locker entered the game and completed a 31-yard pass to tight-end Craig Stevens. Locker’s injury was described as a one to his right calf, and he limped back onto the field for one play with just under three minutes left and completed a nine-yard pass to Chris Johnson when Locker was briefly knocked woozy.
The first half was hardly artistic on either side as the two teams combined for 15 penalties. The Titans had just four yards rushing and four first downs over the first two quarters.
Washington was Locker’s top target with 130 yards on six catches.
Johnson, coming off his best two games of the season, was limited to just 11 rushes and 23 yards.
Tennessee will play at winless Indianapolis next week before hosting Jacksonville on Christmas Eve in its final home game of the regular season. Published in The Messenger 12.12.11

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