Kenny Britt returned to action in a limited capacity Sunday, but the Titans struggled to mount a passing threat against the Chargers.
Britt recorded one catch for five yards in his first football game in nearly a year. He was targeted twice by second-year QB Jake Locker. It was Locker's second career start and first time on the same field as Britt, who tore his ACL and MCL in Week 3 of 2011.
San Diego pressured Locker early and often, prompting a costly interception on Tennessee's second play from scrimmage. The Chargers scored the game's first 17 points and stymied any hopes of a Titans comeback by keeping the pressure on Locker in a 38-10 victory at Qualcomm Stadium.
Locker finished 15-of-30 passing for 174 yards — 46 of which came on the game's final play with a throw to TE Craig Stevens. Locker recorded two rush attempts that gained a team-high 21 yards, including a career-long 20-yard scramble that set up a field goal by Rob Bironas.
Locker, the Titans' first-round pick in 2011, also connected with 2012 first-rounder Kendall Wright for a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter to make it 24-10, but that was as close as the Titans got.
The limitations on Nate Washington, who missed practice all week due to a leg injury suffered the previous week, further strained the Titans' passing attack, and falling two touchdowns behind early forced the Titans to call fewer run plays than they wanted. Chris Johnson finished with 17 yards on eight carries.
Damian Williams led the Titans with four catches for 45 yards, Jared Cook had three receptions for 23 yards, Wright had two catches for 24 yards, Washington had two catches for 20 yards and Johnson had two for 11 yards.
Despite the injury, Washington extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one reception to 64, which includes all 50 games with the Titans.
THIRD DOWNS CRITICAL: The importance of converting third downs is frequently ballyhooed by analysts, and Sunday's game illustrated why.
Tennessee converted one of nine third downs (11 percent) on the day, with Locker's 20-yard scramble in the second quarter accounting for the sole conversion of a third-and-9 play. The Titans failed to move the chains on third downs with distances of 9, 15, 10, 1, 5, 8, 5 and 6 yards throughout the game.
San Diego, however, converted 10 of 17 third downs (59 percent), including each third down it faced on its first three possessions, which led to 17 points. The Chargers converted third downs with distances of 7, 8, 11, 5, and 4 on its first two possessions, with QB Philip Rivers completing TD passes of 11 and 4 yards to reserve tight end Dante Rosario on two of those snaps.
The troubles continued when San Diego's next possession was extended on a roughing the passer penalty against Kamerion Wimbley on an unsuccessful third-and-10 play. The Chargers took advantage of the extra opportunity, later converting third-and-6 to set up a field goal for a 17-0 lead.
San Diego possessed the ball for 43 minutes, 39 seconds.
SACK PACK: Although the Titans never led, the defense recorded four sacks of Rivers, including three in the first half.
Will Witherspoon, who started at middle linebacker in place of Colin McCarthy (ankle), recorded a sack and fumble by Rivers, but Chargers TE Randy McMichael — a former college teammate of Witherspoon's at Georgia — recovered the ball.
Rookie Mike Martin, who made his first start at defensive tackle, and Derrick Morgan also recorded sacks in the first half. Rookie Zach Brown, who made his first start at weakside linebacker, recorded a sack and forced a fumble by Rivers in the third quarter, but McMichael again recovered the ball.
VERNER RECORDS INTERCEPTION: Cornerback Alterraun Verner recorded the Titans' first interception of the season when he snagged a pass that Rivers intended for Malcom Floyd.
It was the fifth career interception for the third-year pro and first since Week 2 of 2011.