Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 9/9/12
NASHVILLE Last season as he struggled game after game following a prolonged holdout, the Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson showed a potentially volatile side of his personality as his team finished ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing. With an offseason that went much more smoothly and in which the Titans made changes that would ostensibly fix those woes, much more was expected out of Johnson and the run game -- this season. So much for expectations. On a day when a number of things went staggeringly wrong for the Titans' offense quarterback Jake Locker didn't finish the game after suffering a left shoulder injury while making a tackle in his first career start -- Johnson's career-low of four rushing yards on 11 carries sent eyes popping in a 34-13 loss to New England at LP Field. "I can't say what they were doing, but we didn't execute as a team," Johnson said. "On the chances earlier in the game where we tried to run the ball, we just didn't execute basically." Last year Johnson's holdout received a large share of the blame in a season that was the former 2,000-yard rusher's least-productive as a pro. That holdout ended in Johnson's receiving a new four-year deal worth up to 53.5 million with 30 million of it guaranteed. While Johnson was criticized at times for not hitting the holes as quickly and not being as explosive, the offensive line also did not escape the gaze of head coach Mike Munchak, the team's former long-time offensive line coach until he was promoted last year to fill the spot vacated by Jeff Fisher. The Titans promised a competition at center, but when Eugene Amano was lost for the season in the preseason, Fernando Velasco won it relatively by default. The only other change was the signing of 34-year-old Steve Hutchinson, a seven-time Pro-Bowler. Unfortunately, Hutchinson was called for what proved to be perhaps the most critical penalty of the day on Sunday, a hold that negated a 20-yard run by Jake Locker and ended up forcing the Titans to punt on that second-half possession. Munchak's explanation sounded a lot like his rationale last season when Johnson put up paltry numbers: The Titans fell down quickly and had to throw to get back in the game and that was the phase in which they were having the most success. "I thought coming in we obviously thought he'd get more than 12 carries or 13 whatever he had," Munchak said. "We knew coming in that that they were going to make sure he didn't get going the best they could and they did a good job of that. As far as some of the runs we had, they weren't as successful as we hoped. We saw that we were having some success throwing the ball. Jake was getting a feel for the receivers, they were doing some good things so, obviously, we need more in that direction and that's why I think his numbers weren't large. "Especially in the second at the beginning of the third quarter, we threw every down. We never gave the run game a chance to get back in. We thought the way that game was going, the best way to move the ball consistently was throwing." In fact, Johnson ran the ball only twice in the second half for a total of minus-5 yards. On the day, he had five runs for no gain or negative yardage after starting out with 13 yards on five carries on the team's opening drive that ended in a 28-yard field goal. Johnson's previous career lows were Nov. 28, 2010, when he rushed for five yards on seven carries against Houston and in his rookie year of 2008 when he ran for eight yards on 14 carries at Chicago. Velasco, one of the few players remaining in the Titans' locker room after Munchak finished addressing the media, said the running game's struggles were the result of poor execution. Tennessee finished with 20 yards on 16 attempts, with Locker leading the way with 11 yards on two carries. "Between the O-line, the tight ends and the fullbacks, we can't have mistakes," Velasco said. "We can't have one guy taking turns here and there because the run game is definitely going to suffer. You saw the result of that here today." New England had numerous standouts on defense in using mostly a 4-3 base, as opposed to the 3-4 they have worked out of in previous seasons. Linebacker Jerod Mayo had 13 tackles in helping to shut down the Titans' running game. But if one play symbolized how the day went wrong for the Titans on offense, it came in the third quarter with Tennessee trailing 28-10 with 13:52 left in the fourth quarter. Locker threw deep down the middle and leading receiver Nate Washington appeared to come down with it for a long gain, but the ball hit the ground and New England's Patrick Chung picked it up and started running down field where he eventually was tackled by of all people -- Locker. Before the play was even whistled dead, Titans trainers were on the field examining Washington. Then another group was dispatched to look at Locker. Washington suffered a leg contusion and did not return. Locker also did not return, though he wanted to, but was not allowed to by the team's medical staff, he said. He said he anticipates no issues in being able to play next Sunday at San Diego. The play was eventually ruled an incomplete pass, which Munchak said was frustrating irrespective of whether the officials were replacements or not. "I don't think it matters who the officials are as far as replacement, regular officials," he said. "I think there were some calls in that game that obviously we weren't happy with" tight end Jared Cook thought he was interfered with in the first quarter when the Titans had to settle for a field goal but there was no call "You know, you wish obviously that a whistle was blown there that the ball wasn't completed. It didn't happen and leads to something else "It's just frustrating when things don't get called that probably should." Aside from Munchak's frustrations, he liked the way that Locker played (he finished with an 89.2 rating). Still, Locker was stripped of the ball on a sack that resulted in New England's returning it for a touchdown a play on which Locker said he has to do a better job of protecting the ball. Locker also had an ill-advised interception of which he said, "I shouldn't have thrown it." But by and large, Locker moved the ball. The bigger concern might be Johnson. "Yes, tough day, especially after the first week of the season," Johnson said. "We were trying to make some plays and trying to get a victory. We had some nice catches and things like that, but, overall, a tough day." That might be an understatement.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Goodell close to signing five-year extension with NFL

Report: Pacers accuse Lakers of tampering with Paul George

Report: Anquan Boldin abruptly tells Bills he's retiring

Todd Bowles blames O-line for Christian Hackenberg’s poor preseason outing

Justin Verlander implies baseballs are juiced

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Blake Griffin: I could see LeBron going to NYC before LA

Ric Flair's daughter says WWE legend 'getting better'

NBA confirms Lakers under investigation for tampering

Report: Le'Veon Bell may return to Steelers by Labor Day

Report: Savage 'firmly in control' of Texans' starting QB job

Jaguars send message with latest unofficial depth chart?

Getaway Day: The playing field is leveling off as the wild-card chase takes shape

Sports & Politics Intersect: Echoes of Charlottesville ripple across the sports world

Best of Yardbarker: NFL goes in on Ezekiel Elliott, NFLPA

BIG3 Playoff Preview: Can anyone stop Trilogy?

The 'Bye bye to the Beast Incarnate?' quiz

Why the SEC is not the best football conference anymore

Box Score 8/18: Reds and Cubs claw through a 23-run game

The 'M! E! S! S! Mess! Mess! Mess!' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Giancarlo Stanton won't stop hitting homers

NFL shifts blame for Zeke suspension to police and NFLPA

Box Score 8/17: Interleague games bring the fireworks

The 'Forget Calvin, bring back Jerry' quiz

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Getaway Day: The playing field is leveling off as the wild-card chase takes shape

Sports & Politics Intersect: Echoes of Charlottesville ripple across the sports world

BIG3 Playoff Preview: Can anyone stop Trilogy?

The 'Bye bye to the Beast Incarnate?' quiz

Why the SEC is not the best football conference anymore

The 'M! E! S! S! Mess! Mess! Mess!' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Giancarlo Stanton won't stop hitting homers

NFL shifts blame for Zeke suspension to police and NFLPA

The 'Forget Calvin, bring back Jerry' quiz

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Charles Oakley slams the phone — and his opponents — down

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker