ST. LOUIS - In going back to the future Sunday to face their former coach Jeff Fisher, the Tennessee Titans went back to the future with an old trick from the past that might have restarted their running game.
That running game accounted for 198 yards and four touchdowns in Sunday's 28-21 victory over the St. Louis Rams, including 150 yards from Chris Johnson.
In fact it was a suggestion from CJ during the week that might have helped to jump-start the run game. The running back went to Munchak and asked if he could initiate a post-practice meeting between the backs and offensive like the Titans did back during the Kevin Mawae days. The meeting took place on Thursday.
“It was a situation where we did a couple of different things. On Thursday, instead of meeting with the coaches, I went to Coach Munchak and asked if it was OK if the running backs and the offensive lines met after practice,” Johnson said. “Earlier in my career, when Kevin Mawae was here, we switched it up. We did that, so the offensive line knows what I'm thinking on certain plays, and I know what they're thinking on certain plays. It's just a way of correcting the small, minor things.”
Johnson elaborated on the meeting, that now might be re-established as a regular routine after Sunday's game.
“When I got here my first three years, always on Thursdays, the running backs and offensive line met up together and ran the meeting. I just went to him and Thursday after practice, Mike Roos, he ran the meeting. I think that helped us out a lot,” Johnson said. “After Kevin Mawae left (we kind of got away from it), and I felt that that kind of helped me out. So I went to Munch and brought it up to him.”
A revamped offensive line that had not performed up to expectations either was on its game Sunday, especially in the second half.
“We wanted to come out and establish the running game. We knew if we could run the football, we could win the game,” said Mike Otto, who filled in for an ailing David Stewart at right tackle on Sunday.
Both sides tried to downplay the meeting with former Coach Jeff Fisher on Sunday in the days leading up to the game.
But the truth is, it meant a lot to both sides.
There was Cortland Finnegan with a first-half interception on a ball intended for Kenny Britt. And there was Jared Cook's 10-yard touchdown catch that tied the game at 21-all. After the TD, Cook emphatically spiked the football. Both had left the Titans in recent years to rejoin Fisher in St. Louis.
The Titans did their best to keep it in perspective on Sunday, trying not to be drawn into being distracted from the game.
“It really wasn't much of a part of the game for me,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “Occasionally when I saw Coach (Fisher) on the screen because I was looking up to see the replay, I did realized that, 'Oh, yeah, Coach Fish is on the other side.' I didn't give it much thought; we were locked into the game I am sure he was.”
Knowing Finnegan's tactics as an agitator probably helped the Titans not to be drawn into anything extracurricular.
“Cortland, he's gonna talk even if you ain't paying no attention. He's just trying to get in your head,” said running back Chris Johnson.
Added wide receiver Damian Williams, “I think it's easier to get under somebody's skin that doesn't know you. We know Cortland. He may have tried a couple of times, but I think he knew as well (that we weren't gonna fall for it).”
Damian Williams took over the Titans return duties and handled himself well for the most part. The only questionable decision was when he brought a ball out about seven yards deep in the end zone and wound up only getting back to the 14-yard line.
Williams complimented his blockers on special teams and said he was comfortable with them.
“I've had a chance to run behind those guys all year. I haven't had a chance to do it in the games, but I've been doing it in practice all year. I know what they're capable of, and they've doing a phenomenal job,” he said.
The Titans escaped any major injuries on Sunday. Tommie Campbell suffered a minor knee injury on Sunday, and Sammie Hill left the game twice with burners.
The bigger issue was two players who were scratched before the game ever started.
The Titans elected to hold out safety Michael Griffin, who has been battling a quadriceps injury. It was the first game missed of Griffin's pro career. Also, tackle David Stewart was scratched due to a shoulder injury. Stewart has also had calf and ankle problems this year.
Both Griffin and Stewart should be able return and play Sunday against Jacksonville.
Moment of silence
The Rams held a moment of silence to honor the memory of Titans owner Bud Adams, who died Oct. 21.
Former Titans special teams player and fullback Casey Cramer was in attendance at the game. Cramer is attending seminary school in St. Louis and addressed the Rams at a chapel service before the game.