First-year Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt has talked about how adversity helps bring a team together.
Well, his Titans need to unite quickly because they have plenty of issues they need to work their way through.
The Titans have been outscored 59-17 in consecutive losses, and they are among the NFL's most penalized teams. Worse, Jake Locker, who has struggled in this skid, now has an injured wrist on his throwing arm putting his status for Sunday's game at Indianapolis (1-2) in question.
Whisenhunt said Monday there's no sense of panic yet as the Titans (1-2) work with 13 games remaining. The coach said he's been 1-2 before with other teams and reached the playoffs, including last year when he was offensive coordinator in San Diego.
"We all need to understand what happened the last two weeks is not acceptable, and we're looking at ways to change it," Whisenhunt said.
Locker's play and health are the biggest issues right now.
The quarterback missed nine games due to injuries last year, and Locker is in the final year of his contract. Whisenhunt says he'll be patient with Locker, something he wasn't known for in Arizona where he cycled through quarterbacks after Kurt Warner retired.
Locker got his right wrist bent underneath at some point in the 33-7 loss at Cincinnati, and Whisenhunt didn't know exactly when his quarterback was hurt. The coach said Locker strained something in his wrist and told Whisenhunt he could barely grip a ball at the end of the game. Locker had an MRI exam on Monday, and Whisenhunt said they'll know more later this week.
The quarterback has put together his worst back-to-back games by passer rating in these two games, and he was 17 of 34 for 185 yards with two interceptions for a rating of 41.9.
He cost the Titans at least a chance at a field goal at the end of the first half. After right tackle Michael Oher's unnecessary roughness penalty backed the Titans up, Locker rolled left and threw back toward the middle where he was picked off by Carlos Dunlap in the end zone. Locker's first interception set up Cincinnati's second TD when the Titans trailed only 12-0.
Locker now ranks ahead of only Josh McCown of Tampa Bay and Minnesota's Matt Cassel among the NFL's top 32 quarterbacks for passer rating, and he's ahead of only Chad Henne (53.8 percent) and Drew Stanton of Arizona (51.6 percent) completing 56.4 percent of his passes.
Whisenhunt said the issues weren't all Locker's fault.
"We didn't communicate very well up front with our protections," Whisenhunt said. "We didn't snap the ball correctly a couple times. We got out of synch. Those are all things we're learning about every facet of us going forward. We handled it better in Kansas City."
Only Oakland has scored fewer points through three games than the Titans who have yet to score a point in the first quarter this season.
Ryan Succop missed a pair of field goals wide right. Quentin Groves was flagged for holding on a punt in the end zone for a safety, and Oher's penalty for cleaning up a pile late moved the offense back from the Cincinnati 10 to the 25 just before Locker's interception. The Titans finished with 11 penalties for 99 yards, and only three NFL teams have more penalties.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who won the starting cornerback spot over Coty Sensabaugh, had his worst game. The second-year player out of Connecticut was responsible for four penalties and gave up the play of the game when he played neither the ball nor Andy Dalton in allowing the Bengals quarterback to catch a pass and score a touchdown.
Cornerback Jason McCourty said everyone taking turns making mistakes doesn't make them feel better. It's a similar refrain in recent years for a franchise that has posted one winning season in the last five years.
"The only focus is what we have this year," McCourty said. "Instead of focusing on snowballing effects and what could happen, we just need to focus on what we have to do to improve."
Notes: Whisenhunt said TE Delanie Walker, the team's leading receiver, hurt a shoulder.
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