As the final seconds ticked away on the big scoreboards at Arrowhead Stadium, and only a few hundred fans were left in the seats, Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt allowed himself to smile.
He kept smiling right through his postgame news conference Sunday.
"It's always good to win the first game," Whisenhunt said after Tennessee's emphatic 26-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. "I'm going to give you a cliche: You can't win 16 if you don't win the first one. Of course I'm happy with the win but it's all about how our team played."
Nearly perfect, as it turned out, in all three facets of the game.
Locker threw for 266 yards and two scores, the Titans' defense intercepted Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith three times and Ryan Succop was perfect on four field-goal attempts against the same team that released him in favor of an undrafted rookie just last weekend.
"We didn't do great all the time," Whisenhunt said, "but we did enough."
Meanwhile, the Chiefs stumbled to a frustrating loss to open Year 2 under Andy Reid.
Smith, who signed a four-year, $68 million extension last weekend, was just 19 of 35 for 202 yards. Running back Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs' biggest game-breaker, carried seven times for 19 yards and had four catches for 15 yards. And linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive tackle Mike DeVito are likely done for the season after rupturing their Achilles tendons.
"It's frustrating. It's not fun playing football like that," Smith said. "It's not fun losing and certainly losing like that. At that same time, it's one game. We've got a lot of football ahead of us and we've certainly got a big one coming up. No time to sulk."
As the Titans head home for a game against Dallas, and the Chiefs prepare to visit Denver, here are some things to take away from their season opener:
LOCKED AND LOADED: The Titans declined their fifth-year option on Locker in the offseason, taking a wait-and-see approach with the injury-prone quarterback. He performed well in making his opening argument for a new contract, though it came against a suspect Kansas City defense. "Guys got open and made great catches and were able to do some things after the catch," Locker said. "I thought it was an efficient game for us from that standpoint."
SUCCOP VS SANTOS: The Chiefs chose to keep Cairo Santos rather than Succop last weekend, in large part because it saved them much-needed salary cap space. But the decision came back to haunt Kansas City on Sunday. Succop was perfect on field goals and extra points, while Santos banged both of his field-goal tries off the uprights — one went through, the other did not. "Just have to keep my head up," Santos said. "Just got to move on and put that behind you."
MCCOURTY THE MAN: Jason McCourty had two of the Titans' three interceptions. It was an encouraging sign for a defense that failed to pick off a pass in the preseason while trying to adapt to coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 scheme. "We kind of joked that we'll save them all up until the season starts. We were able to do that," McCourty said, "come up with three interceptions against a quarterback who doesn't throw many, a very smart quarterback."
CHARLES MIA: Asked why Charles had so few touches, Reid stumbled through an abbreviated answer about the Titans taking away some of the Chiefs' plans. Charles also wasn't willing to discuss his meager workload, saying only: "Whatever the game plan is, I just go with it." Charles was slowed in the preseason by a foot injury, but he worked all week and sounded ready to go on Sunday. "I definitely want the ball in my hands in every situation," he said.
NO HUDDLE: The Titans did something that few teams have managed to do at Arrowhead Stadium: run a no-huddle offense. They sped to the line of scrimmage early in the game, when the building was still full and the noise at its fullest, and managed to keep the Chiefs defense on its heels with crisp execution. "We did a good job as a unit, communicating, getting on the same page and executing the plays that were called," Locker said.
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