Tennessee Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter (15) celebrates with Kendall Wright (13) after Hunter caught the 34-yard game-winning touchdown pass against the San Diego Chargers.(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans finally have a quarterback who can beat the San Diego Chargers, and Jake Locker outplayed Philip Rivers to end a skid that had covered nine games, two states and two decades.
Locker hit rookie Justin Hunter for a 34-yard touchdown with 15 seconds left as the Titans rallied and beat San Diego 20-17 on Sunday.
The Titans (2-1) now have two more games at home before having to hit the road again and a chance to build on a good start for coach Mike Munchak after owner Bud Adams spent more than $100 million on free agents this offseason.
The Chargers (1-2) lost for the second time this season when leading under new coach Mike McCoy.
Here are five reasons how the Titans ended the skid.
1. LOCKER'S COMING-OUT: Locker has been lost in all the young quarterbacks as the eighth overall draft selection in 2011. He was hurt all of his first season as a starter. The Titans hadn't asked him to do much through the first two games, but he used both his legs and his arm against San Diego. Locker had his biggest play this season when he scrambled for a 31-yard gain in the first half and finished with five carries for 68 yards and a touchdown.
The big drive came at the end as Locker was 7 of 10 for 94 yards completing passes to six different receivers.
"I hope it leads to a lot of great things obviously," Munchak said of Locker. "I think it just gives our whole team confidence when you can take the ball 94 yards with no timeouts and 1:50."
The quarterback topped his run with his TD pass to Hunter, and Locker finished 23 of 37 for 299 yards and a 96.6 passer rating. Better yet, Locker has yet to turn the ball over this season.
2. HURTING CHARGERS: The Chargers knew they would be without receiver Malcolm Floyd after he hurt his neck in last week's win at Philadelphia. But right tackle D.J. Fluker also was out against Tennessee after suffering a concussion in practice, cornerback Shareece Wright was scratched. Then McCoy had some confusion when linebacker Donald Butler thought he could play, scratching linebacker Tourek Williams. Butler was limited, and the offensive line took some more hits as left guard Chad Rinehart hurt a foot in the first half and left tackle King Dunlap was hurt in the fourth quarter.
Cornerback Johnny Patrick, who started for Wright, came out of the game with cramps. That left Crezdon Butler defending Hunter on the winning TD.
"We had every opportunity to win the football game with the guys who were playing," McCoy said. "We just didn't get it done at the end. We made too many mistakes throughout the game to put ourselves in a bad position."
3. PAINFUL MISTAKES: The Chargers were flagged only five times for 45 yards, but the penalties came at the worst times. Rivers connected with Eddie Royal on a 5-yard TD in the second quarter that was erased by offensive pass interference on Keenan Allen, starting with Floyd out. Rivers argued the call a bit too much, drawing his own flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. That put the Chargers back to the Titans 30 after having first-and-goal at the 5, and they wound up settling for a 44-yard field goal by Nick Novak.
"It took a touchdown off the board there," Rivers said. "Obviously, I have not seen the replay, I'm not sure if it was the right call or not. Obviously, that's what I was so upset about. That was a big play."
4. PROMISING ROOKIE: The Titans traded up to draft Justin Hunter at No. 34 overall out of the University of Tennessee. He let Eric Weddle get an arm in early breaking up a would-be touchdown in the first half, but the rookie made sure Butler didn't interfere as he went up to catch Locker's 34-yard TD pass to win the game for his first NFL catch.
5. KENNY BRITT: The Titans expect so much from Britt, their top draft in 2009, now that he's finally healthy. But he dropped the ball on the first play, failed to pull in a long ball from Locker down the sideline and also was flagged for an illegal block in the back where he barely touched a defender. He was booed early and often. Britt finished without a catch and was not on the field for Tennessee on the game-winning drive.
"I'm just disappointed in my whole day," Britt said. "Sometimes, you don't have good games and I've just got to bounce back this week."