KANSAS CITY, Mo.(AP) — The Titans were implementing a new offensive system under Ken Whisenhunt, a new defensive system under coordinator Ray Horton, and trying to make a whole bunch of new pieces fit.
Things couldn’t have gone much better in their regular-season debut.
Jake Locker threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns, the Titans’ new-look defense picked off Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith three times, and Tennessee rolled to a 26-10 victory over the Chiefs on Sunday.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant,” Locker said, “but I think we expected it to (go smoothly). We felt that way through minicamp, into fall camp and in the preseason. That was one of our expectations, that we were able to execute and we were going to be efficient on offense.”
Locker picked apart a Kansas City defense that lost Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson and starting defensive tackle Mike DeVito to Achilles injuries. He finished 22 of 33 while connecting with eight different players, including former Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster.
“Jake did great,” Whisenhunt said. “All those things we’ve worked with, footwork-wise and technique-wise, and you saw it. That’s really exciting. But it’s just one game.”
Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker had TD catches for the Titans, and Ryan Succop was perfect on four field-goal attempts against the team that released him last weekend.
“There’s no question this was a special day,” Succop said. “It was an awesome day. Great to come back to Kansas City. I’m very thankful the day went the way that it did.”
Smith, who signed a four-year, $68 million extension last weekend, was just 19 of 35 for 202 yards in a haphazard performance by a Kansas City offense weakened by suspensions.
Leading wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was forced to miss the game following an arrest last November, and right tackle Donald Stephenson served the first game of his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
The Chiefs didn’t reach the end zone until Anthony Fasano’s TD catch in the fourth quarter.
Running back Jamaal Charles, who is the Chiefs’ biggest game-breaker, was a non-factor. He carried seven times for 19 yards and had four catches for 15 yards.
“All those things we did last year to win, we didn’t do them today,” Smith said. “We didn’t execute, didn’t execute in a lot of phases, especially offense.”
After Kansas City jumped out to a 3-0 lead, when Cairo Santos banged a 35-yard attempt off the right upright and through for the first field goal of his career, just about nothing went right. Santos missed a 47-yarder moments later and the Titans seized control.
Locker led his team 62 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, an easy toss to Walker in the back of the end zone. Succop followed with a field goal later in the half for a 10-0 lead.
Johnson went down with his Achilles injury just before the half, and DeVito was lost to a nearly identical injury on the first drive of the second half.
Locker capped that drive with a short TD pass to Wright, who managed to contort his body just enough to touch the pylon as he was going out of bounds. The touchdown gave Tennessee a 17-3 lead and started a shower of boos from a crowd that had been full of optimism.
“Those are guys who are kind of staples of their defense,” Locker said. “They were in there almost every snap, especially Derrick. You understand that’s going to change up their personnel a little bit. Yeah, you look at it and maybe understand where you can gain an advantage.”
It was an important opener for the injury-prone Locker. The Titans declined their fifth-year option on him in in the offseason, so the pressure is on Locker to perform this season.
He certainly did against a Chiefs defense that was full of questions entering the season, and has even more after a pair of serious injuries to key defensive players.
“I have a lot of respect for Coach Reid and this football team and these fans,” Whisenhunt said. “We didn’t do great all the time, but we did enough. I’m very happy for that.”