One-quarter of the way through his first season as an NFL starter, there is some question about Jake Locker’s ability to finish a contest.
For the second time in four games the Tennessee Titans quarterback was knocked out of a game with a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury. Sunday he failed to make it out of the first quarter of a 38-14 loss to the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
“I really don’t know what to expect from it until we get a chance to look at it,” Locker said. “I’m going to do everything in my power to be on the field.
“It was the toughest part of playing any game in my opinion. You have to stand on the sideline and watch your team compete and you want to be out there with them.”
Backup Matt Hasselbeck threw two second-half interceptions, both of which the Texans returned for touchdowns, and was sacked three times and lost a fumble. He did throw two touchdown passes, but the second was with 57 seconds to play, after Houston had scored the first 24 straight points of the second half.
The Titans (1-3) outgained the Texans (4-0) 325-297, but Houston, the only undefeated team in the AFC, did not commit a turnover and was called for one penalty for three yards. Tennessee was flagged seven times for 73 yards.
“Probably the story of the game will be turnovers, then their defense scoring points, and the penalties that cost us not only momentum but big yards,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s frustrating because I feel like we’re not that far away, but we didn’t play great. We had turnovers and I was a part of three of them.
“It’s frustrating because I know we are capable of a lot more, but they were just clearly a lot better than us [Sunday].”
The giveaways, which resulted in 17 points, more than offset a breakout performance by running back Chris Johnson, who rushed for 141 yards on 25 carries — both season-highs. He went 13 yards — his longest gain of the season — on the Titans’ first offensive play and later added a 19-yard run.
He entered the contest with 45 yards on 33 carries and a career-long streak of seven straight games with less than 100 yards.
“I think I had 10 or 11 carries in the first half,” Johnson said. “It’s always good to get in your groove and keep playing. Playing running back you have to keep getting the ball in your hands or whatever, later on in the game.”
Locker, though, was knocked out early.
Safety Glover Quin sacked him to end Tennessee’s second offensive possession and sent him to the trainer’s room. He was back on the sideline in street clothes beginning in the second quarter.
He first injured the shoulder early in the fourth quarter of the season-opening loss to Indianapolis. He since has played and practiced with a brace to provide stability and protection. The plan following the game was for him to undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the damage to the joint.
“On that, it’s was 5-man-protection, they brought six,” coach Mike Munchak said. “… He could have made a quicker decision to get the ball out of his hands before he has a chance to get hit.
“It’s sore. We just don’t know to what level that’s the part, we just don’t know to what level. We don’t know where it’s at.”