Here we go again.
The Tennessee Titans running game appeared to be on the way to being fixed when Chris Johnson had 130 yards rushing last week against Carolina.
But with a much tougher opponent in the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, CJ and the running game's struggles were back and bigger than ever, with only 13 yards to show for 12 carries.
There is plenty of blame to go around, because Johnson is clearly not showing the burst and acceleration he did in his pre-holdout days. TitanInsider reported weeks ago that Johnson did not show up in the best of shape when he finally reported to the team, but now with 10 games under his belt, the yards are still not coming on a consistent basis.
In his Monday press conference, Coach Mike Munchak even pointed a good bit of the blame the group he coached before becoming head coach – the Titans offensive line. That is a remarkable move, especially since his best friend and long-time teammate Bruce Matthews inherited the group from him and Munchak regarded this group as “Super Bowl” caliber at the start of the year.
“As a group, for the limited time we had to run it, we didn't block well. We were very average and inconsistent and that's where you go when you do that for eight carries,” Munchak said. “I'm not going to give any excuses. We would have liked to have had more opportunities, and that's my fault. So if you only get 10 carries, you've got to do a much better job than we did with 10 carries. So that starts with the offensive line, and anytime you have this conversation, it starts with them. They know that, and we need to do better than that.”
Munchak went on to say that, while the Titans could use more carries to get the running game going, the run game has to earn more carries by being successful enough to keep the score close and keep the team out of obvious passing situations.
“Obviously, we still had eight or nine other shots and everything was one or two yards. So again, I'm disappointed,” Munchak said. “We've got to find a way to make some runs. I thought we would run the ball better. I wish we had 30 carries, but we didn't. We didn't earn the right for 30 carries. You have to get more than one or two yards to get a chance to do it more often.”
The tone was set right from the start when Johnson was stopped for a 3-yard loss on the first drive that started from the Tennessee 7-yard line due to a penalty on the kickoff.
“When you have a minus run on the first play of the game, we were in the noisy part of the stadium. The game started just like we wished it wouldn't,” Munchak said. “We had a nice return to the 33, great field position, and we get a penalty and start on the 7. I think being backed up, their defensive tackle got penetration, got in the backfield. CJ had nothing to do with that play. He didn't have a chance.”
As for his part, Johnson said after the game that the execution on the part of the offense was lacking.
“I trust my reads. I’m looking at the film and I’m doing all the right things, but it’s just not turning out right. We are not executing,” he said, in a statement that seems to call out teammates without really calling them out.
Asked about why the running game struggled again, Johnson pointed to execution, “I know we didn’t execute some plays that we could have. They are a pretty good defense and they made a lot of plays out there today. I’m sure if we had executed better, then we could have had a better day in the running game.”