By Shawn Lealos
When the 2014 NFL season started, most people expected the Dallas Cowboys to struggle on defense while their offense soared, causing high powered shootouts that Dallas would fall short of winning against solid teams. However, after the offense sputtered the first week of the season, they now head into a Tennessee Titans game that looked winnable in the preseason and now looks like a questionable outing. Here is a look at the Titans leading into their big week two game with the Dallas Cowboys.
The Tennessee Week 1 game looked like a tough one for the young team. Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs had one of the best records in the NFL, and if not for the Denver Broncos, could have entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. However, they did not look like a great team against Tennessee. The Titans beat up the Chiefs and walked away with a 26-10 victory, looking very much like a team that can contend for a playoff spot themselves this season.
Tennessee headed into the 2014 NFL season with a brand new head coach in Ken Whisenhunt. After a successful tenure with the Arizona Cardinals, he took over a Titans team that was looking for its identity. He cut loose the talented but discontented running back Chris Johnson and set out to create a new identity for the Titans. What the fans saw on Sunday was a very focused and determined team playing strong football from top to bottom.
The Titans are led on offense by fourth year quarterback Jake Locker.The knock on Locker is that he has all the talent in the world to make plays, but has never stayed healthy in his NFL career. After backing up Matt Hasselbeck in his rookie season, he has started each of the past two seasons as the starting quarterback, only to see both of them end early due to injuries. As a result, Whisenhunt is trying to create an offense that keeps him safe, with scrambling only a last option.
In Week 1, Locker finished with 266 passing yards while throwing the ball 33 times. He had two touchdowns, no interceptions, only had to run with the ball six times and had a fantastic quarterback rating of 111.4. This could finally be Locker’s breakout campaign. He was sacked four times, and that is a number the Tennessee Titans will want to work on.
Kendall Wright picked up where he left off in 2013, when he was the Titans leading receiver. In the first week win, he pulled in six balls for 46 yards and a touchdown while Justin Hunter led the team in receiving yards with 63. Often maligned running back Shonn Greene also had a solid game, running for 71 yards with an impressive 4.7 yard-per-carry average.
The Kansas City Chiefs biggest weapon in their offense is running back Jamaal Charles, and his talent is to make almost everyone playing against him look bad. However, Tennessee really buckled down and completely shut down Charles in the game. Charles only ran for 19 yards and caught four balls for 15 yards. It was one of his worst performances since 2012. The reason that Charles was limited was because the Titans stacked the line and forced the Chiefs to throw.
The Titans then dominated the passing game as well. Alex Smith is normally one of the most accurate passers in the NFL, but he threw three interceptions against the Titans in the game. With memories of Tony Romo’s performance against San Francisco, this should be a scary stat heading into the game with the Dallas Cowboys. The Titans finished with four sacks and Eric Berry was the star on the defense with 15 tackles, one pass defensed and one quarterback hit.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.