It wasn't long ago that Chris Johnson fancied himself a better running back than Adrian Peterson, and certainly had his fair share of league followers who believed him.
Five weeks into this season, Johnson has nowhere to run. And no matter how much they would like to, the Tennessee Titans have nowhere to hide.
Johnson managed just 24 yards on 15 carries and the Titans committed 10 penalties in bungling their way to a 30-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Johnson failed to top 24 yards in a game for the fourth time in five games this season, the Titans (1-4) turned the ball over twice and lost 75 yards to penalties. And their next game is just four days away when they host Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
"There's nowhere to go," coach Mike Munchak said. "We have to come back and win a football game. ... We are who we are. There's no draft coming up. There's no adding more players, getting new coaches. This is the group we have and with this group we have to play much better, and we have to do it quickly."
Matt Hasselbeck, filling in for the injured Jake Locker, looked ragged in going 26 for 43 for 200 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But the Titans were already down 23-0 in the fourth quarter when he hit tight end Jared Cook on a 10-yard scoring pass, and the outcome was already decided.
"I don't even know," Cook said. "I have no answers. We've been saying that all year that we keep beating ourselves. It's time to stop saying that."
The overwhelmed Titans defense had another rough day, unable to corral Percy Harvin, Minnesota's do-everything receiver. Harvin caught eight passes for 108 yards and ran for another score for the Vikings (4-1), who have given up a combined 33 points in winning three straight games. Christian Ponder threw his first two interceptions after 143 attempts without one this year, but he still finished 25 for 35 for 258 yards and two scores against the reeling Titans (1-4).
"I don't think any team in the league sets a goal at the beginning of the season to be 1-4," guard Steve Hutchinson said. "It's baffling."
After finishing 9-7 in coach Mike Munchak's first season and missing the playoffs by a tiebreaker, the Titans have regressed in year two. They entered the game with a league-most 151 points allowed, and for all the good their two turnovers did their tackling was befitting of a team that was second-to-last in the NFL in yardage allowed through the first quarter of the season.
Even when things were going right for the Titans, they still found a way to mess it up. A fake punt in the first quarter gave them a first down in Vikings territory and put momentum on their side. But Johnson fumbled the ball on the next play, and it was all downhill from there.
"The whole offense didn't do anything," Johnson said. "Didn't put up points, didn't stay on the field. Everything took a toll. You just can't say the running game. It's the whole offense."
While Johnson spent much of his time dancing and stutter-stepping in the backfield while futilely looking for daylight, Peterson just kept putting his head down and pounding away at the Titans defense until some running room opened up. He rushed for 88 yards on 17 carries. He broke off runs of 22 and 34 yards, his two longest of the season in another sign that he is nearly all the way back from a horrific knee injury last December.
"It felt good," Peterson said. "I didn't play the fourth quarter. That feels good, man. To get the score out of reach like that and get some other guys some carries and get that type of offense all around."
NOTES: Titans backup RB Javon Ringer injured his left knee late in the game and had to be carted off the field. Ringer is scheduled for an MRI on Monday. "I've just got to deal with it," Ringer said. "Can't change it now. I'll wait until I get a MRI tomorrow. They said I might just have a strain. Unsure." ... Rob Johnson and Jordan Babineaux had the interceptions for the Titans. ... Rookie WR Kendall Wright had nine catches for 66 yards. ... Vikings S Harrison Smith was ejected in the second quarter after making contact with an official.
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