The Titans said they could see elements of the run game improving when they last played, and it showed Sunday in their first action in two weeks.
|Chris Johnson runs for his second rushing touchdown that proved to be the decisive score in the Titans' 28-21 win over the Rams. |
Click here for a slideshow from Tennessee's victory.
Johnson said he was looking forward to the Titans’ return from their bye week for multiple factors, including the quick artificial surface and the Rams’ 4-3 defensive front (for different running lanes than the 3-4 front used by six of Tennessee’s first seven opponents). He acted on that enthusiasm by speeding to the edge of the defense as blocks developed and shifted gears on multiple runs.
After the game, Johnson credited the Titans’ refinement of details and a joint meeting between running backs and the offensive line after practice Thursday also helped the running game hit its stride.
“This week we did a couple different things,” Johnson said. “(The joint meeting) was something we were doing earlier in my career when Kevin Mawae was here, so we switched it up and did that so the offensive line knows what I’m thinking on certain plays and I know what they are thinking on certain plays. It was a situation that corrected the small, minor things.”
“We lost the edges. CJ, obviously, when he gets on the edge, he goes,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who formerly coached the Titans for 16-plus seasons (1994-2010). “We edged it up all week and we emphasized it and so I haven’t looked at it, but I’m sure we had a number of guys who made mistakes.”
The 19-yard touchdown came one snap after Tennessee’s
Johnson went to the right side of the line through a hole created by tight end
“That guy (is) extremely fast,” Finnegan said. “(It was) not being gap sound and not making the tackles on the tail-end when we needed to. You’ve got to credit CJ. He’s an electrifying runner, he’s got speed, and he did a good job today.”
Tennessee (4-4) finished with a season-best 198 yards on 35 carries (second-most this season), and also relied on running backs in the passing game on screens and check-downs, appearing more like the team that Titans coach Mike Munchak envisioned during the offseason.
“When you are not running the ball it is a drag and a drain on your team,” Munchak said. “There is no way around that, no matter who it is. You still want to be winning; you want to be a physical team. CJ is a special runner, and we think we have a good offensive line, but we just weren’t having results. To watch it finally come together, I didn’t think it was going to take this long, but I am glad it happened.”
In addition to solid blocking throughout the game, Mooney had a career-long 22-yard reception on a screen.
It was the 34th career game with at least 100 yards rushing for Johnson, and the Titans improved to 25-9 when Johnson hits that mark. Johnson moved ahead of Charlie Hennigan (51) for the third-most total touchdowns in Titans/Oilers franchise history. Johnson has 52 (46 rushing, six receiving) and is behind Eddie George (74) and Earl Campbell (73).
The Titans host Jacksonville (0-8) on Nov. 10 before hosting Indianapolis on Nov. 14, and Johnson said the progress made Sunday was encouraging as Tennessee enters the second half of the season.
“It’s a whole offensive effort. If we can stay in games and execute the game plan that the coaches give us and just work on the little things we can get big runs, because when we went back and looked at the first seven games the main problem with the running game was just little mental mistakes,” Johnson said. “We saw a lot of plays that could have been big plays for us in the first seven games. The thing we did was just have everybody worry about the little things and it turned out that it worked.”