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Notebook: Chris Johnson Scores 50th TD

Posted Oct 20, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chris Johnson became the fourth player in Titans/Oilers franchise history with 50 career touchdowns on Sunday at LP Field.

Chris Johnson had four receptions for 71 yards and rushed nine times for 39 yards. Click here for the slideshow from the game.

Johnson caught a short screen pass from Jake Locker, who was playing for the first time in three weeks, and turned up field. Johnson picked up a key block from rookie Brian Schwenke (who made his first NFL start) on Patrick Willis and blocks by Andy Levitre on NaVorro Bowman and Craig Dahl that created enough of an opening for Johnson to streak through for a 66-yard touchdown.

Johnson’s score brought Tennessee within 14, but San Francisco turned a muffed punt by Darius Reynaud into seven more points and prevailed 31-17.

It was the 15th play of at least 50 yards (third reception) for Johnson, who had 69- and 66-yard TD receptions in 2009.

Johnson joined Eddie George (74), Earl Campbell (73) and Charlie Hennigan (51) as the only players in Titans/Oilers franchise history to have at least 50 TDs.

He added 39 rushing yards on nine carries, but those opportunities were limited because Tennessee fell behind and tried to get back in the game with a bevy of passes. The Titans rushed 13 times for 70 yards, and the team average of 5.4 per carry was the second highest this season.

Locker returned to the lineup after quickly recovering from hip and knee sprains he suffered on Sept. 29. He completed 25 of 41 passes for 326 yards with two TDs and one interception.

WRIGHT RAPIDLY HITS 100: Kendall Wright tied Bill Groman (1960-61) and Webster Slaughter (1992-93) as the second-quickest to record 100 receptions with the franchise. The second-year pro surpassed the mark Sunday in his 22nd game. Only Hennigan (1960-61) did it faster (21 games).

Wright tied a career-high with nine receptions to lead the Titans (3-4) with 98 receiving yards, giving him 105 receptions for 1,059 yards in his short career.

WALKER TIES SCORING MARK: Titans tight end Delanie Walker scored the final TD of the game when he caught a 26-yard pass from Locker. Walker, who joined the Titans this offseason after spending his first seven NFL seasons in San Francisco, has three TDs this season, tying his career high from each of the past two seasons. Walker had three catches for 52 yards.   

TITANS STRUGGLE ON THIRD DOWN: San Francisco’s four offensive scoring drives included a total of eight third-down conversions. The 49ers converted third-and-2 with a 24-yard pass to Vernon Davis and third-and-6 with a 10-yard run by Kaepernick to set up a 44-yard field goal by Phil Dawson on their opening possession.

Kaepernick completed a 25-yard pass to Anquan Boldin on third-and-5 and rushed for a 20-yard touchdown on third-and-7 to put the 49ers up 10-0 in the second quarter. Kaepernick converted third-and-11 with a 20-yard scramble on San Francisco’s following possession that ended with the first of two 1-yard touchdown runs by Frank Gore for a 17-0 lead.

“They were running the ball real well. If they can run the ball, it makes the game harder for the defense,” defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said. “We’ve got to make sure we stop the run and we’ve been doing a great job all year. Today, we let it slip through our fingers and put our DBs in a tough spot because they can’t play the ball game they want to play because they’ve got to worry about the run and trying to cover. It showed up today that we couldn’t stop the run, so that’s a long game.”

The 49ers (5-2) extended that margin on the opening drive of the second half when they converted third-and-4 with a pass from Kaepernick to Davis, and third-and-3 with a 12-yard completion to Davis before Gore scored on third-and-goal from the 1.

“As a defense, when we’ve got an opportunity to get them on third down, we just need to get off the field. It’s frustrating and tough when they keep converting third downs and moving the ball,” Akeem Ayers said. “As a defense, we’re wearing down on a drive like that, but that’s on us to get off the field and give the offense the ball back.”

The 49ers converted eight of the first 10 third downs they faced and zero of the final six. The 50 percent success rate, however, was the highest by an opponent this season. Tennessee’s defense entered the game holding opponents to 29.9 percent success on third down.

Tennessee’s offense, meanwhile, converted 5-of-14 (36 percent) third downs.

PENALTIES LOOM LARGE: Titans safety Bernard Pollard appeared to have his third interception of the season when he corralled a pass by Kaepernick at the Tennessee 13-yard line before diving out of bounds. A roughing the passer penalty against Ayers, however, negated the interception, and moved San Francisco from the 38 to the 23-yard line.

“You take the air out with that interception and turn back around and give them the ball,” Pollard said. “I don’t know what the league wants us to do about that. It’s tough. For us as players, we’ve got to play better.”

Officials ruled that Ayers hit Kaepernick too low as he came on a pass-rush attempt amidst contact from a blocker.

“There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m going all out, rushing from the edge,” Ayers said. “All my momentum is moving forward, I see the quarterback with the ball still in his hands and I’m trying to make a play. That’s just me playing all-out and playing with a lot of effort.”

The Titans had five penalties for 50 yards in the first half and duplicated those numbers in the second half for totals of 10 infractions for 100 yards.

“Penalties usually do hurt you. Those hurt the offense. Three of those hurt the offense early with chances to continue drives,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “The one on Akeem (Ayers), he’s coming on the edge. I thought he actually came high and then fell low. I don’t know what they saw. I’m sure they’ll look at that (Monday). The thing is, it was called and it cost us because that was a third down. It led to a touchdown, that’s a huge play. We had too many of those kind of plays that hurt us.”

Kaepernick logged his TD run three plays later. The QB rushed five times for 50 yards in the first half and finished with 11 carries for 68 yards, often keeping the ball on read-option plays. San Francisco rushed 41 times for 153 yards.

NO TAKEAWAYS: For the first time all season, the Titans didn’t record at least one takeaway from an opponent. Tennessee’s defense recorded at least two takeaways in five of the first six games this season.

The Titans’ minus-two status in turnover ratio was its worst this season. The 49ers improved to plus-41 in turnover differential under coach Jim Harbaugh (since 2011).  

FIVE-WIDE: The Titans used a shotgun, five-wide formation early that included lining up Reynaud as a receiver. Locker’s second attempt and completion of the game went to Reynaud, who played receiver in college at West Virginia, but the duo were unable to connect on a third-and-4 that halted Tennessee’s opening series.

DEFENSIVE STARTERS: Colin McCarthy made his first start at middle linebacker this season in place of Moise Fokou (knee), and rookie Lavar Edwards made his first career start in place of Derrick Morgan (shoulder).

GAMES IN A ROW: Rob Bironas tied LB Keith Bulluck and DE Elvin Bethea for fourth all-time in franchise history with 135 consecutive games played. Bruce Matthews has the Titans/Oilers franchise record with 232.

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