NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jake Locker is looking much more like the quarterback the Titans thought he could be when they drafted him at No. 8 overall in 2011.
Now Locker and Tennessee's offense must figure out how to spend more time on the field.
The Titans had only 47 offensive plays in Thursday night's 32-27 win over Arizona, and they converted only 3 of 13 third downs while staying on the field a mere 21 minutes, 48 seconds. The season opener is Sept. 9 against New England, so time is running out for fixes for the Titans (2-1).
"You hope it all evens out," coach Mike Munchak said Friday. "This week maybe we get a couple drives. In the opener, we hope we definitely do. It's something you've just got to keep working and know they'll come in bunches at times. You have to create those opportunities by doing well on first and second down."
The Titans (No. 21 in the AP Pro 32) went three-and-out on three of the first four possessions against Arizona, and the lone exception was a two-play scoring drive after an interception. Tennessee finished with seven three-and-outs a week after having five in a win at Tampa, and five came with Locker in at quarterback.
"I think we missed a few third downs that we could've converted on, missed a couple of throws on the third down that could've kept the drives alive, kept us on the field and could've possibly led to more points," Locker said after the game. "I think we need to get a little better on the first down and not put ourselves in as many third-and-1s."
Having watched film of the game, Munchak noted they had hoped Locker would get a few more long drives. Locker did drive the first-team offense 80 yards in a drive he capped with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington. Still, the drive took up only 3 minutes, 39 seconds.
"Just got to keep playing," Munchak said of Locker. "Obviously, we're happy with how he handled himself."
Holding onto the ball offensively has been a problem in Tennessee the past couple seasons.
Tennessee ranked last in the NFL in 2010 with an average time of possession of 25:54 in Jeff Fisher's last season, and the Titans moved up a whole spot to 31st in Mike Munchak's first year as head coach holding the ball an average 27:52.
The defense gave the offense plenty of chances by forcing four of Arizona's five turnovers. But Colin McCarthy returned his second interception 31 yards for a touchdown to start the second half, so Locker and the first-team offense didn't get on the field until midway through the third quarter.
"There's not a whole lot you can do," Munchak said. "Just keep executing. Games fall different ways. The good thing is getting turnovers where we had a lot of short fields that we turned into 17 points, so the good news is we took advantage of what they gave us when the defense did a great job of giving us turnovers."
Munchak wasn't too worried about Chris Johnson averaging 2.1 yards on 13 attempts running the ball. Johnson did have a long run of 9 yards a week after averaging 4.6 yards on 10 carries. He said the Titans tried to throw more after running 37 times in Tampa.
The Titans wrap up the preseason on Aug. 30 by hosting New Orleans, and Munchak said he'd like to play Locker possibly the first half to get him more snaps. Then Tennessee has to trim the roster to 53 less than 24 hours after that game ends, and receiver could force some tough decisions.
Marc Mariani was recovering Friday after surgery to repair his lower left leg after a compound fracture where both bones snapped at the end of a punt return against the Cardinals, an injury that will keep him out this season. Munchak said he had spoken to Mariani, who was obviously depressed and disappointed at the injury.
Kenny Britt still is waiting to hear if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will punish him for a driving under the influence arrest July 20 at an Army post on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. Britt currently is on the physically unable to perform list while hoping to be ready and available for the opener.
Munchak said they expect to learn something in the next week or so to help as they make those final decisions.
"Hoping it's Kenny in that mix or one of our young guys once we find out what's going on with Kenny," Munchak said.
NOTES: Munchak said DT Jurrell Casey (elbow), DT Sen'Derrick Marks (knee), DL Leger Douzable (shoulder) and CB Ryan Mouton (concussion) likely will not play against New Orleans.