Reaching .500 mark a big deal to Titans
Posted: Monday, December 28, 2009 6:05 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Titans’ improbable playoff dreams are finished for this season. Now it’s back to reality with goals quickly set on two other historic marks.
Finish 8-8, which no NFL team has ever managed after starting a season with six straight losses. And get Chris Johnson to 2,000 yards rushing, making him only the sixth player in league history to reach that mark.
That’s all that’s left for Tennessee (7-8) after Friday night’s 42-17 loss to San Diego. The Titans’ only hope of reaching the playoffs for a third straight season depended on them winning out, and they still needed plenty of help to squeak into the AFC’s final wild-card slot.
“You go to 8-8,” Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “You win the next football game, and you get Chris Johnson 2,000 yards rushing.”
Johnson has 1,872 yards after he ran for 142 yards and a touchdown against San Diego. That was his 10th straight 100-yard rushing game, giving him the third-longest streak behind Barry Sanders (14 in 1997) and Marcus Allen (11 in 1985-86). Jamal Lewis was the last to run for 2,000 yards in 2003.
“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. To get that record would mean a lot to me. So basically this team will get back to work, and we got one more game left so hopefully we can get .500.”
Johnson will have plenty of help as he pursues 2,000 yards.
“Everyone is committed to doing everything they can to help CJ get 2,000, and he deserves it,” tight end Bo Scaife said.
The second-year running back already has bought gifts for his offensive linemen, TE Alge Crumpler and fullback Ahmard Hall. Johnson promised cars if he reached 2,000 back in November. He said Friday he didn’t buy them cars.
Johnson isn’t giving up on Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards either. He would need 233 yards to tie the mark Dickerson set in 1984. That would be a new career high for the running back who ran for 228 yards Nov. 1 against Jacksonville.
“Anything is doable,” Johnson said. “I feel like I can do it. Just basically we got to stay in the game and keep the score close and stay in our offense. We can’t become one-dimensional.”
That’s exactly what happened against San Diego as the Titans hurt themselves repeatedly.
Vince Young had three turnovers after coming in with four interceptions and one fumble this season. San Diego turned those into 21 points. The defensive linemen took turns committing neutral zone infractions, and the meltdown was so complete that even defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Young, now 7-2 since returning as the starter, recovered from his first two turnovers and ran for a touchdown just before halftime that provided some faint hope. He took the blame for his mistakes postgame, another sign of the fourth-year quarterback’s maturity.
The Titans find themselves in a similar situation to 2001.
Now, just as then, they were coming off a 13-3 season in which they had earned the AFC’s No. 1 seed only to lose the first playoff game at home. Fisher’s defensive coordinator was hired as a head coach, so he promoted an assistant.
They started 2001 with three straight losses, before rallying to win seven games. Then they lost the final two and finished at 7-9.
No NFL team has opened a season with six straight losses and finished at .500 or better.
The best the Titans can do now is finish at 8-8 for a .500 finish that would be Fisher’s fifth in 15 full seasons.
“Our focus is on 8-8 right now and finishing the season on a winning note,” Fisher said. “Rarely do you get an opportunity to finish the season on a winning note, particularly. Obviously (we won’t be in) the playoffs, but we need to hit the offseason running, and there’d be no better way to do that than to find a way to win next week.”