NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have been criticized for being the NFL's worst at running the ball. Jake Locker is pretty happy about one thing they're doing better than almost any team in the league: protecting him.
The Titans (1-2) have done a pretty good job keeping Locker upright, allowing only two sacks this season and none in two straight games. Locker was hit only twice last week against Detroit. Only Buffalo has allowed fewer sacks with just one.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said Wednesday the protection went unnoticed last week despite facing a good defensive line against the Lions.
"We all knew that coming in and we threw the ball 50 times, I think, and the quarterback got hit twice," Munchak said. "Not sacked, not harassed, he threw for almost 400 yards. That's a heck of an accomplishment for them, and I thought the run blocking, for the most part, was pretty good all game, for their part in this thing."
Protecting quarterbacks has been a mark of the Titans since Munchak first started coaching the offensive line in 1997. The franchise has ranked outside the top 10 only three times since 1997 and usually finds itself among the top six.
"That's been a strength of this team for a long time, and it continues to be," Locker said. "Those guys are professionals. They come out every weekend, and they play really good football games. It's a constant as far as I'm concerned."
The Titans finished behind only Buffalo last season in fewest sacks allowed, tied with New Orleans in giving up 24 sacks. That came protecting veteran Matt Hasselbeck, who is not as fast with his legs as Locker. His ability to run was just one of the reasons Tennessee drafted Locker eighth overall in 2011, and he's led the team in rushing each of the first three games.
Locker picked up his first career victory last week in a wild 44-41 overtime win over Detroit. He also threw for a career-best 378 yards and was 29 of 42 with a passer rating of 113.0. It was the most yards passing by a Titans quarterback since Vince Young threw for 387 against Arizona on Nov. 29, 2009.
Munchak said the credit for protecting the quarterback can be shared by not only the offensive line, but by receivers getting open quickly along with added protection from the tight ends and running backs
Tight end Craig Stevens also praised Locker.