Menu

Football

Star RB Johnson limited in opener as Titans lose

Chris Johnson touched the ball about a dozen times in Tennessee's season opener, enough to get him involved but not enough to get him going.

It was about what he expected given that he missed all of training camp and the preseason because of a contract holdout.

Johnson was held to 49 yards, a big reason the Titans lost 16-14 at Jacksonville on Sunday. The team's star player, the one who signed a $53 million extension that included $30 million guaranteed, had a limited role following limited work.

"I really didn't have a long drive to stay on the field and see how my body would react," Johnson said. "I felt good out there and I think I will be all right."

Johnson ran nine times for 24 yards and caught six passes for 25 yards. It was clear from the start the Jaguars wanted to focus on Johnson and make Matt Hasselbeck, Kenny Britt and others beat them. The plan worked to perfection — barely.

The Jaguars led 13-0 and felt like it should have been more, but Tennessee made it close with a pair of second-half touchdown passes from Hasselbeck to Britt.

"They came out of the box with the crowd and the enthusiasm and they got points on the board and we didn't," new Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "We were flat early and there's no reason for that. We had a good week of practice, we were ready to play, all those things. But the bottom line is it equates to that first quarter.

"They pretty much did what they wanted to do and put us in a hole. We fought back, which is a good thing, but we cut it too close."

Making his Titans debut, Hasselbeck completed 21 of 34 passes for 263 yards. He had a few passes dropped, but avoided any major errors until the final play.

Tennessee sliced into the lead with a fluky score on the ensuing play. As Leger Douzable crunched Hasselbeck from behind, he somehow got rid of the ball and lobbed a pass to Britt near the sideline. Britt eluded several defenders, including linebacker Clint Session who seemed to have him in his sights, and went 80 yards.

It got the Titans going, but wasn't enough to overcome Jacksonville's fast start.

Hasselbeck hooked up with Britt again with 3:34 remaining, trimming the lead to 16-14. On third-and-goal from the 2, Britt hauled in Hasselbeck's fade pass over Rashean Mathis' outstretched arms and got both feet down in the corner of the end zone. Officials reviewed the play and determined it was a good catch.

Jacksonville held on from there. Mike Thomas made a leaping grab on Luke McCown's third-down pass over the middle. The 26-yard gain helped Jacksonville take time off the clock. The Jaguars ended up punting and pinned Tennessee at the 3-yard line after Marc Mariani decided to let the kick bounce.

The Titans still had a shot, but Hasselbeck's deep pass to Britt was intercepted by Dwight Lowery.

"The smarter play probably would have been to hit Chris and see what he could do and hopefully spike it and give our field goal team a chance," Hasselbeck said. "I'm sure the coaches will come up with some positives, but right now it's hard not to focus on the negatives."

Britt was one bright spot.

He caught five passes for 136 yards, showing great hands in the end zone and great awareness on the 80-yard play.

"We started slow because we weren't on the same page offensively," Britt said. "We missed some plays that we'd really like to get back. We made some adjustments at halftime that worked for us. The long TD really helped because we weren't that far behind and it got us going."

Johnson could have been the difference.

He was concerned about being in football shape, even though he worked out in nearby Orlando and was somewhat prepared for the stifling heat and humidity.

"I went out there and felt better than I thought I was going to feel," he said. "It's a good thing at the level and condition I am at right now."

Munchak said he expects Johnson's role to increase next week.

"There wasn't a lot of running room," Munchak said. "If you want to get a back going, he's got to have more than four carries in the first half. He has to get more touches, but he didn't get them. It's hard to judge someone who, in the end, only carried the ball seven or eight times. ...

"He'll be fine, but I think this was one of those games where we really couldn't get him involved because we didn't have a whole lot of plays."