The quest at Qwest is the only meaningful aspect left to the Tennessee Titans’ 2009 season after their Christmas night 42-17 shellacking courtesy of the San Diego Chargers at LP Field.
That “quest” of course is running back Chris Johnson’s pursuit to become the sixth running back in NFL history to reach 2,000 yards rushing in a season.
Johnson recorded his 10th consecutive 100-yard rushing game on Friday night, going for 142 yards on 21 carries with one touchdown. That gives him 1,872 yards for the season, leaving him needing to rush for 128 yards Jan. 3 against the Seattle Seahawks in order to reach the milestone.
“That record would mean a lot to me,” Johnson said. “That was one of my goals that I set before this year started, and a lot of people didn’t even think I would get close or whatever.”
Johnson also said he still believes he has a chance to surpass Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards set in 1984. Johnson needs 234 yards to break that record, though it would take a career-best to do so. His best thus far is 228 yards against Jacksonville on Nov. 1.
“Anything is doable,” Johnson said. “I feel like I can do it. Just basically we’ve got to stay in the game and keep the score close and stay in our offense. We can’t become one dimensional.”
Also, Johnson needs 75 yards from scrimmage to break Marshall Faulk’s single-season record for yards from scrimmage, which stands at 2,429.
Johnson said he has already purchased gifts for his linemen, fullback Ahmard Hall and tight end Alge Crumpler, regardless of whether he gets the milestone.
“I didn’t get the offensive line cars, but I got them a gift,” Johnson said, declining to say what the presents were.
Crumpler was asked if he knew what the present was and said, “I don’t want [expletive] if he doesn’t get the 2,000.”
William Hayes didn’t think his 15-yard late hit on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was a good call. For that matter, neither did defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil, who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct right after the call.
Hayes was vocal in saying that he didn’t maliciously hit Rivers, and should not have had the call go against him.
“He was just releasing the ball. I don’t feel like I hit him hard at all. I just stuck my hands out there, and he just fell and did some acting,” Hayes said. “I definitely didn’t think I hit him enough to cause a penalty. I think they’re protecting these quarterbacks a little too much in the NFL now. I really do.”
Vince Young’s resurgence had play a major role in the Titans’ rise from the ashes of 0-6, but on Christmas night, the fourth-year quarterback struggled through his worst performance of the season.
He completed just 8 of 21 throws for 89 yards and had two passes intercepted. Young also had a fumble, and all three of his turnovers led to Chargers touchdowns.
When the game was over, Young put the blame on his shoulders for the loss, though there were plenty of others who shared in the loss.
“Every time we did get in a rhythm, I turned the ball over,” Young said. “That’s something I can’t do. … We were driving the ball pretty good. It was just the turnovers on my behalf hurt us a little bit.”
Teammates were supportive of Young after the loss.
“I don’t think it was all his fault tonight. This is a team effort. We came out tonight with a lot of things planned, and we just didn’t get them accomplished,” receiver Nate Washington said.
With Keith Bulluck and David Thornton out with season-ending injuries, the Chargers feasted on the Titans defense, putting up 425 yards of total offense and six touchdowns.
The Titans defense struggled, but the defense refused to blame the losses of the two veteran linebackers as a reason for their defensive problems.
“We miss them a ton, but that’s not the reason we lost the football game. We hurt ourselves a ton early,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said.
Gerald McRath and Colin Allred filled in, and McRath said he thought they did OK.
“I feel like we held up, but it’s a team effort. At the end of the day, football is a team game. There were some more things we probably could have done right. We’ve just got to come back and try to get better this week,” the rookie said.
Safety Michael Griffin did say that the experience of Thornton and Bulluck was missed on Friday night.
“It makes a big difference. The young guys played well, but it’s one thing when you’ve played the entire season and got years under your belt,” Griffin said.
Cornerback Nick Harper left the game at halftime after apparently reinjuring the forearm he broke on Oct. 11 against Indianapolis.
Also, cornerback Ryan Mouton suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter, and did not return to the game. That left rookie Jason McCourty as the only option at cornerback, because the Titans opted to deactivate veteran Rod Hood once again.