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Titans beat Jets, lose QB Jake Locker

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE -- The good news for the Tennessee Titans: They improved to 3-1 and tied Indianapolis for the AFC South lead Sunday with a 38-13 beating of the mistake-prone New York Jets at LP Field.

The bad news: Quarterback Jake Locker was carted off the field with a hip injury, putting his availability for next week's unlikely showdown with 4-0 Kansas City into question.

Locker, who was 18-of-24 for 149 yards and three first-half touchdowns, left with 11:14 remaining in the third quarter. While throwing an incomplete pass, he was drilled by Muhammad Wilkerson and then hit by Quinton Coples.

Locker went down, clutching his hip, and barely moved. Most of his teammates surrounded him by the time he was loaded on the cart, and the crowd of 69,143 gave him a warm ovation.

Before the game was over, Locker was on his way to a local hospital to get checked out. Coach Mike Munchak didn't have an update as to the extent of Locker's injury after the game.

"Any time you get a player hurt, it's a concern," Munchak said. "When it's your quarterback, you're really hoping it's not anything major. He was playing the way we want him to. Hopefully, the injury isn't anything extensive."

Locker has become more accurate while eliminating mistakes through the first four games. The third-year pro from Washington has completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 721 yards and six touchdowns. More importantly, he hasn't thrown an interception.

That was in sharp contrast to his counterpart Sunday. New York rookie Geno Smith continued to cough up the ball with regularity, tossing two interceptions and losing two fumbles which led to 28 Titans points.

Smith's final numbers -- 23 of 34, 289 yards and a garbage-time 34-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland -- seemed an outlier in light of his critical mistakes. He's turned the ball over 11 times (eight interceptions, three fumbles) in four games.

"Did he give us a chance to win today? I don't think you can pin this game on one guy," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "They beat us in every phase of the game -- offense, defense, special teams and in coaching."

Smith's first pass was intercepted by Alterraun Verner and returned 34 yards to the Jets' 19, setting up Locker's 1-yard scoring flip to Delanie Walker just over three minutes into the game.

After the teams traded field goals, Smith was stripped of the ball at midfield by Zach Brown and Verner took the loose ball to the New York 26. Six plays later, Locker hit Nate Washington with a 4-yard touchdown toss for a 17-3 advantage with 6:46 left in the half.

Nick Folk's second field goal with 2:26 remaining cut the lead to 11 points, but Verner's second interception at the 1:37 mark set up another short field. Locker cashed it in with a 16-yard scoring strike to Justin Hunter two seconds before the half ended, making it 24-6.

Verner, a fourth-year pro out of UCLA, now has four interceptions and a fumble recovery in four games for a much-improved defense.

"Seems like everywhere I go, the ball goes," Verner joked.

Smith's fourth turnover resulted in another Tennessee touchdown. Karl Klug sacked Smith near the goal line, forced a fumble and fell on it in the end zone with 11:45 left in the game.

It was one of five sacks for 50 yards by the Titans, who consistently generated pressure in any way they desired, particularly as their lead grew and the Jets (2-2) had to shelve the running game.

"We got a nice lead and forced them to pass the ball," Klug said. "We were able to pin our ears back. That's our goal -- to make them one-dimensional."

Smith did throw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland at the 8:49 mark, but Washington caught a 77-yard scoring heave from backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with 7:06 remaining to finish the scoring.

It was an outcome that floored Ryan.

"Shocked," he said. "I don't know what else to say."

NOTES: Tennessee deactivated starting wide receiver Kenny Britt (fractured rib), who didn't catch a pass last week against San Diego and also committed a pair of penalties, drawing boos from the home crowd. Other Titans' inactives included former Jets running back Shonn Greene and starting DT Sammie Hill. ... The Jets' inactives included CB Dee Milliner and RB Chris Ivory. ... Tennessee FS Michael Griffin played in his 100th career game.
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