Kendall Wright showed a little veteran savvy.
Against tight coverage, with the ball in the air and headed his way, the rookie wide receiver managed to create just enough room an instant before the ball arrived. He made the catch for what was the Tennessee Titans’ longest first-half play — 26 yards.
Only it did not count. Wright was called for offensive pass interference and the gain was negated.
On a night when the offensive starters struggled to make big gains, it was the sort of thing that was impossible to overlook. The Titans defeated the New Orleans Saints 10-6 at LP Field and all of their points — limited as they were — came as a result of good field position created by a turnover.
“I think it was very disappointing, to me anyway,” Wright, the first-round draft pick out of Baylor, said. “When I watched on the replay, I don’t think it was [interference]. [The defender] was about to put his hand on me and I did what I was taught to do, basically.”
Quarterback Jake Locker, in his final tune-up before he starts a regular season NFL game for the first time, looked as if he has not yet covered the full distance of his learning curve.
Last season’s top draft choice directed four drives that netted 129 total yards and an average of 4.6 yards per play. On the plus side, each of those possessions covered more ground than the previous one and they all included at least one first down.
The down side was that they resulted in just three points, and the Titans trailed 6-3 when Matt Hasselbeck took over at quarterback with just under two minutes to play in the first half. That, despite the fact that virtually all of New Orleans’ first-team defense watched the contest in street clothes.
“We just couldn’t find ways to put points on the board,” Locker said. “That’s something that every week you want to be able to do. … There are some things to clean up but there also are some things to build on.”
Locker overthrew wide receiver Damian Williams on what could have been a 39-yard touchdown pass given that Williams had gotten behind the New Orleans secondary. Another time, tight end Jared Cook gave away a nice gain when he carelessly failed to get his second foot down inbounds after an accurate delivery.
Tennessee’s longest play of the first quarter was Locker’s 16-yard scramble, which went for twice as many yards as his longest completion. In the second quarter he connected with Cook for 18 yards, the longest official gain with Locker under center.
“Obviously we had a couple of miscues but it was more stuff we did to ourselves,” Williams said. “It’s something we can clean up. We can go watch the film and hopefully we can get it cleaned up for next week.”
The only points Locker produced — a 24-yard field goal — came on a seven-play, 18-yard drive after Tennessee’s defense forced a fumble on the game’s opening possession. Jamie Harper’s game-winning touchdown — a one-yard run with nine minutes to play in the third quarter — capped a 33-yard drive that linebacker Tim Shaw’s interception.
“I wish we could have done a little more on offense,” coach Mike Munchak said at halftime. “We moved the ball a little bit there, but we’re not finishing drives. … It’s just unfortunate. We hoped to have done a little better than that.”
Of course, had the call not been made against Wright, the Titans would have had an additional 26 yards, not to mention a first down at the Saints’ 12 and a bona fide opportunity to score. Amidst all the things players and coaches want to do better once the regular season begins, they would not ask him to do anything differently if that situation arises again.
“If [Wright] doesn’tput his hand up, he gets held and doesn’t make the catch,” Williams said. “… That’s just a battle for position. I know a lot of time they call on the defense, other times they call it on the offense. … I feel like it was just two guys going for the ball.”
Maybe an actual veteran — instead of one who simply played it like a veteran — would have gotten the call.