Titans lose Jake Locker to injury, beat Jets 38-13
The Tennessee Titans got a very big win over the New York Jets. Their celebration is muted while they wait to see if they lost their quarterback.
And if they did, just for how long.
Jake Locker threw a career-high three touchdowns before injuring his hip seriously enough to send him to the hospital, and the Titans finished off a 38-13 rout Sunday of the Jets for their second straight victory.
Locker was hurt with 11:14 left in the third quarter when hit first by Muhammad Wilkerson after throwing an incomplete pass, then popped by Quinton Coples. He grabbed at his hip as he went to the ground and was taken from the field before being loaded into an ambulance.
Titans coach Mike Munchak did not have an update or a diagnosis after the game.
''When it's your quarterback, it seems to hurt more,'' Munchak said.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Locker was spending Sunday night in the hospital. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Titans had not updated Locker's condition. The Tennessean first reported Locker was being admitted to St. Thomas Midtown Hospital.
Alterraun Verner intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble, Karl Klug sacked Smith and stripped him of the ball for a TD as the Titans turned Smith's four turnovers into 28 points. Ropati Pitoitua had two of Tennessee's five sacks as the Titans (3-1) continued their surprising start.
The Jets (2-2) couldn't overcome Smith's rookie mistakes, especially not after receiver Stephen Hill was knocked out of the game with a head injury on the second offensive play.
Smith had one fewer turnover than Mark Sanchez did last December when the Jets lost to the Titans 14-10 in an ugly game between two teams headed to 6-10 finishes. The Jets cut their penalties in half from a week ago when they had 20, but it wasn't enough with all the turnovers.
''It shocks me,'' Jets coach Rex Ryan said. ''I never expected for the game to turn out like this. Certainly a shock. I don't know what else to say.''
The Jets now get to look for answers.
The Titans already have half as many wins through the first month as they managed all of 2012, and they joined the 1995 St. Louis Rams as the only teams in the Super Bowl era without a turnover through the first four games.
But the victory was overshadowed by Locker's injury.
Wilkerson said he didn't realize Locker was hurt and that the referee told him it was a clean hit.
''It was a clean hit,'' Wilkerson said. ''If it was late the ref would have thrown a flag. They didn't throw a flag.''
Locker missed five games last year with a dislocated shoulder, an injury that affected him throughout the season. Fully healthy, Locker was starting to play like the franchise quarterback the Titans wanted when they drafted him No. 8 overall in 2011 out of Washington.
Against the Jets, Locker completed passes to seven different receivers with TD passes to Delanie Walker, Nate Washington and rookie Justin Hunter for a 24-6 halftime lead.
''It was a really big shot,'' Chris Johnson said of losing Locker. ''We had a lot of momentum, everything going our way and just for the play to happen like that ... it just kind of sucked it all out of us.''
Ryan Fitzpatrick, signed in March to back up Locker, started slowly coming off the bench. But he connected with Washington on a 77-yard TD during which the receiver went up for the ball away from Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, knocked down back judge Billy Smith as he landed and then ran to the end zone for a 38-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
''I was brought here for a reason, and the reason I was brought here was to help Jake out and be ready for a situation like this if it came up,'' Fitzpatrick said.
The Jets managed one TD drive in the fourth quarter as Smith threw a 34-yard pass to Jeff Cumberland. Nick Folk kicked a pair of field goals.
It just wasn't enough with the Titans blitzing Smith and hitting him repeatedly. Verner stepped in front of Hill and intercepted Smith's first pass at midfield and ran it back 34 yards with safety Michael Griffin leveling Hill after the catch.
Verner also recovered a fumble after Titans linebacker Zach Brown chopped the ball away from Smith, setting up Locker's second TD pass. Verner got his second interception late in the first half to set up Locker's third TD pass to Hunter.
''The ball's just finding me right now,'' Verner said.
Notes: Ryan said WR Santonio Holmes hurt a hamstring, but didn't have any information about the severity. ... Washington went over 5,000 yards receiving for his career with his 77-yard TD catch. ... Griffin and Jets safety Dawan Landry each played in their 100th career games. ... The Titans won their fourth straight at home dating to last season, their first such winning streak since five consecutive wins in 2009. ... Munchak now is 18-18 as a head coach.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org