NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Titans are looking more and more impressive on defense, and that is something they may have to lean on depending on just how bad Jake Locker's hip is hurt.
Locker injured his hip badly enough in the third quarter that he spent the night in a hospital, and the Titans finished off a 38-13 rout of the New York Jets on Sunday with Ryan Fitzpatrick. The defense sacked Geno Smith five times and forced the rookie into four costly turnovers the Titans turned into 28 points.
The Titans are 3-1 after going 6-10 last season, a start that has them excited. Watching Locker in pain and being carted off the field damped any celebration until they learn the extent of the quarterback's injury.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said there was nothing seen on the field that indicated Locker's hip popped out.
"We will wait to get all the information and start deciding what we need to do," Munchak said.
The Jets (2-2) thought they only needed to clean up their penalties and keep riding a stingy defense. But they got a reminder of just how important the quarterback position is with Smith's mistakes. Jets coach Rex Ryan said he was shocked by how the Titans beat his team and he's tired of all the talk that being young is causing mistakes.
"We don't need to learn any more mistakes," Ryan said. "We've got to fix them."
Here are the five things we learned from the Titans' big win:
BALL SECURITY: The Titans joined the 1995 St. Louis Rams as the only NFL teams in the Super Bowl era to play the first four games of the season without a turnover. Locker may not have been asked to throw the ball much the first two games, but he certainly did a good job protecting it. The Titans now have nine takeaways this season. Cornerback Alterraun Verner, who had to fight off Tommie Campbell in the preseason to keep his starting job, leads the NFL with six takeaways by himself, including four interceptions.
DEFENSE: The Jets came in with the stingy defensive reputation under Ryan. The Titans have been putting together their own hard-hitting unit under coordinator Jerry Gray with help from senior assistant coach Gregg Williams. Tennessee hit Smith 11 times, and Ropati Pitoitua, who started his career with the Jets, had two sacks against his former team. The Jets wound up outgaining Tennessee in total offense, but it sure didn't feel like it the way the Titans kept setting up their offense with short field after short field off turnovers.
STILL MY QUARTERBACK: Ryan has no choice but to stick with Smith, at least until Mark Sanchez's shoulder allows him to return from injured reserve. Ryan was asked if he planned on starting Smith when the Jets visit Atlanta next week. Ryan said yes with a laugh.
"I know one thing, he kept competing," Ryan said of Smith. "There are some things we've got to do better at. We've got to look at it, 'Do we need this play, do we not, do we handle it well?' We've got to look at a lot of things on offense, defense and special teams."
TITANS QUARTERBACKS: Locker was taken to the hospital, and a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Locker was staying overnight. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Titans had not commented on Locker's status. The Tennessean reported first that Locker was being admitted to St. Thomas Midtown Hospital. Locker had a career-best three touchdown passes before being hurt, and he has six TDs for the season with no interceptions. He also is completing 62.2 percent of his passes.
But the Titans signed Ryan Fitzpatrick in March after cutting Matt Hasselbeck trying to upgrade their backup.
"I was brought here for a reason, and the reason I was brought here was to help Jake out and be ready for a situation like this if it came up," Fitzpatrick said.
PENALTIES: Both the Titans and Jets cleaned up their act from a week ago when the teams combined for 30 penalties in games they won. But Tennessee did a better job with only four flags for 30 yards. The Jets only cut their mistakes down by half to 10 penalties for 66 yards and had at least one wiped away by a turnover.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org