Titans’ opening is grand

Titans’ opening is grand
Titans’ opening is grand

Oakland Raiders’ running back Darren McFadden is surrounded by Titans on Sunday.

NASHVILLE — Unlike a year ago when the Tennessee Titans opened the season by losing their first six games, head coach Jeff Fisher could find few faults with how his team began the 2010 campaign.

“It is kind of nice to get off to a start like we did in all three phases, I have to say,” an obviously-pleased Fisher said following the Titans’ 38-13 thumping of Oakland Sunday before a sellout crowd at LP Field.

The season-opening triumph ensures Tennessee will not duplicate last year’s nightmarish 0-6 beginning that was salvaged only by an 8-2 finish for a .500 season.

And the Titans indeed were impressive in all facets of their ’10 debut as Chris Johnson ran for 142 yards and two touchowns, Vince Young threw a pair of TD passes, and the Tennessee defense sacked Raider quarterback Jason Campbell four times in the first half and set up a pair of scores with two forced turnovers.

The Titans’ special teams — a point of emphasis in the preseason after a subpar 2009 — also got in on the act with solid kick coverage, good returns by rookie Marc Mariani and contributions from both placement man Rob Bironas (one field goal, five PATs) and punter Brett Kern (50-yard average on four punts).

“We really challenged our special teams throughout training camp and especially this week,” Fisher continued. “We kicked well; we covered well. I was really pleased with the special teams performance. Offensively, we carried balance into this game. C.J. (Johnson) made the (big) play and Vince, I thought, played well, made good decisions, used his legs and we converted some third downs.

“Defensively, the difference in the ballgame was 0-for-7 on third downs in the first half. It was overall a pretty good effort.”

Johnson, coming off a record-breaking season in which he became just the sixth back in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards and set a pro football mark with 2,509 yards from scrimmage, recorded his 12th straight 100-yard rushing game — dating back to last season.

Now second only to Barry Sanders (14) in that feat, Johnson electrified the crowd with a 76-yard TD sprint just before halftime to put Tennessee up 24-3. It was the ninth run of 50 yards or longer in his brief NFL career, which now stands at 32 games.

Young was solid, if not spectacular, completing 13-of-17 passes for 154 yards and a quarterback rating of 142.8. He hooked up with Nate Washington on a 56-yard scoring play to give the Titans a 7-3 lead and begin a run of 24 unanswered points, then threw a one-yard touchdown pass to tight-end Bo Scaife on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 38-6.

The Tennessee defense simply overwhelmed a shaky Oakland front with four different players recording sacks, including linebacker Will Weatherspoon, who flew back to Nashville on owner Bud Adams’ private plane after burying his mother last week.

First-round draft choice Derrick Morgan also dropped Raider QB Jason Campbell, who was making his first start after being acquired from Washington in the offseason.

“Wash (defensive line coach Jim Washburn) did a great job all week with the rush plan. We kept them fresh,” Fisher continued. “Our plan was to go four or five plays, then rotate. That is pretty much what we did the whole ballgame.”

Safety Chris Hope returned an interception 32 yards to the three to set up Young’s second TD pass, while secondary mate Michael Griffin receovered a Campbell fumble in Raider territory that set up a 43-yard field goal by Bironas late in the opening period.

The Titans will play at home again this coming Sunday against Pittsburgh.

Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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