Chris Johnson could have gotten off to a better start, but — all things considered — the first few minutes of the contest were not that bad. From there, things could not have been much worse.
The veteran running back had the least productive game of his career, in terms of rushing yards, Sunday in the Tennessee Titans’ 34-13 loss to the New England Patriots at LP Field.
He finished with four yards on 11 carries, and with the last couple times he took handoffs the sellout crowd booed.
“Yes, tough day — especially after the first week of the season,” Johnson said. “We were trying to make some plays and trying to get a victory. We had some nice catches and things like that, but overall, a tough day.”
His previous low for a single game was five yards on seven carries, Nov. 28, 2010, at Houston. His worst Week 1 performance was last season’s 24 yards on nine carries at Jacksonville.
He rushed five times for 13 yards on the opening possession against the Patriots and helped the Titans to an early 3-0 lead. All five carries gained at least a yard and the longest went for five.
Of the six carries he got the rest of the way, three lost yards and two went for no gain.
“He is a phenomenal player,” New England cornerback Devin McCourty said. “The thing with Chris Johnson is that he goes anywhere on the field on any run. We just wanted to make sure that we bottled him up and for the most part we were able to do that.”
Johnson’s six receptions (for 47 yards) were a team-high, but quarterback Jake Locker (two rushes, 11 yards) was Tennessee’s leading rusher.
“Obviously we thought he would have more than 12 or 13 carries, whatever he ended up having,” coach Mike Munchak said. “We knew they were … going to make sure he didn’t get going the best they could, I would think. They did a good job with that.”
• Getting the call: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck made his first relief appearance in a decade when Locker was injured in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. He completed his first six pass attempts beginning with a 14-yard connection with Johnson on third-and-1.
“You’ve got to be ready and be loose and ready to go,” Hasselbeck said. “I kind of knew what the [third]-and-one call was going to be. It was a rollout. So I tried to get loose as I could, without giving it away. … It felt good to kind of get in and get a rhythm and stuff.”
He missed his final five passes and finished 6-for-11 for 43 yards.
The last time Hasselbeck came off the bench to play quarterback was Oct. 27, 2002, with Seattle.
• First impression: First-round draft pick Kendall Wright caught five passes for 37 yards in his NFL debut, which tied him for the most receptions by a Titans wide receiver.
He also provided an emotional boost at times when the outcome still seemed undetermined.
“He is a difference-maker when the ball is in his hands,” Locker said. “He caught a lot of underneath routes where he had the opportunity to run with it after he caught it, and that’s where he is dangerous. That’s what he was really able to help us with.”
• Off and running: In stark contrast to Johnson’s performance, New England ran the ball effectively throughout the contest and Stevan Ridley finished with 125 yards and one touchdown on 21 attempts.
The second-year player out of LSU had just 441 yards and a single-game high of 97 as a rookie.
“They ran the ball better than they should’ve been able to,” Munchak said. “That usually is all we talk about them running the football and made [quarterback Tom] Brady’s job obviously a lot easier when they were having success running the ball on the edges and making plays when they needed to. It was disappointing to see that.”
• Briefly: This was just the third time the Titans lost a Week 1 game at LP Field. The previous two times (2001 and 2006) they missed the playoffs. … Tight end Jared Cook had six catches in eight career September games before this season. He made four catches for a team-high 64 yards against the Patriots. … Locker has thrown a touchdown pass in four straight regular-season games. He had at least one in his final three appearances of 2011. … Defensive end Kamerion Wimbley recorded a sack in his Titans’ debut. The only other time he got to the quarterback in the season-opener was 2010 with Oakland — in a loss to the Titans at LP Field.