Chris Johnson rushed for a season-high 130 yards and Damian Williams had a career-high 107 receiving yards as the Tennessee Titans defeated the Carolina Panthers 30-3 Sunday at Carolina.
It was the first time this season the Titans (5-4) had a 100-yard receiver and a 100-yard rusher in the same game. Tennessee’s defense recorded a season-high five sacks and held Carolina’s rookie quarterback Cam Newton to his second-lowest passing total (209) of the season.
“[We wanted to] learn from what we went through the last eight weeks,” coach Mike Munchak said. “We should be more comfortable with each other, more comfortable with our offensive and defensive schemes and take that with us into this game. We have a couple of games on the road and we needed this badly. They knew that. They responded and played really well.”
Johnson’s yards and carries (27) were season-highs, and he became the third player in Oilers/Titans history — Earl Campbell and Eddie George were the others — with at least 5,000 career rushing yards (5,094). He also had 44 receiving yards on four receptions.
Johnson capped his day with a 1-yard touchdown run — his first rushing touchdown in four games — with 2:33 to play as Tennessee scored its most decisive victory under Munchak.
“This was one of those games that finally we were waiting for,” Munchak said. “It’s been a while that we gave him enough carries because again, at some point if you do that with a good back he’s going to have a good day. The last drive was a great drive. That’s what you have to be able to do on offense.”
Williams had a 43-yard catch and run for a touchdown on the Titans’ first offensive possession. The second-year man added a 40-yard reception later and became Tennessee’s first receiver to top 100 yards in a game since Kenny Britt did so in each of the first two weeks.
Williams has scored a touchdown in consecutive games for the second time this season.
“I think the thing for him is that the more he gets to play, the more comfortable he’ll get, and the more experience that he will get,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “He’s scoring touchdowns right now, which is really nice.”
Marc Mariani returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown and joined Pacman Jones as the only players in franchise history to return at least one punt for a touchdown in consecutive seasons. Jones took back one in 2005 and three the following season.
Mariani, a Pro Bowl return specialist as a rookie in 2010, did not have a punt return of longer than 26 yards this season until he went untouched down the left sideline after the defense held Carolina to a three-and-out on the opening drive of the contest.
“I think that was huge for us,” Mariani said. “Especially first quarter, out the gate to build momentum and to take over so early was huge.”
Akeem Ayers, Cortland Finnegan, Will Witherspoon and Gerald McRath all registered sacks of Newton, who failed to throw a touchdown pass for just the second time. Sen’Derrick Marks and William Hayes shared a sack.
“Cam held the ball,” defensive end Jason Jones said. “We had a good plan and good coverage in the back. If they hold the ball we got to get to them. We had to get to him and today all of us got to him. It was a great effort.”
Tennessee plays the second of three straight games against NFC South opponents next Sunday at Atlanta (3:15 p.m., CBS).