Kevin Mawae is in his 15th NFL season, and never before had the veteran center been a part of something like the Tennessee Titans accomplished Sunday in Kansas City.
The Titans rushed for a franchise-record 332 yards in a 34-10 trouncing of the Chiefs, as Chris Johnson (168 yards) and LenDale White (149 yards) became the team’s first set of 100-yard backs in the same game in 31 years.
“You don’t run for 300 yards in the NFL on a weekly basis,” Mawae said. “It doesn’t happen very often. This is the first time in my career I’ve had over 300 yards rushing in a game.”
The running game, certainly the Titans’ preferred method of travel, was at a distinct advantage against the lowly Chiefs, who are last in the NFL against the run and are yielding an unsightly 207 yards per game on the ground.
“We had a pretty good indication that we were going to have some success in the run game provided we executed up front,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Monday. “Based on the things we had seen and the youth of their defense, we just felt like we could keep some pressure on them and run the football. We didn’t anticipate the explosive plays, the long runs, but those were certainly helpful.”
Even so, the fact that the Titans set a franchise record was not lost on those who accomplished the feat.
“When you think about Eddie George and Earl Campbell and all those guys that played here, it’s unbelievable,” said White, who also scored three touchdowns.
The Titans could have another opportunity for success Monday night against AFC South rival Indianapolis, based upon what the statistics say. The Colts are 28th against the run after allowing Green Bay’s Ryan Grant to gash them for 105 yards Sunday, and could again be without safety Bob Sanders, who is the heart of the run defense. Sanders has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain since Week 2, and his prolonged absence is perhaps a key reason by Indy is surrendering 153.5 yards per game this season against the run.
On Monday night, they’ll be charged with trying to slow down Johnson and White and a Titans running game that is up to 154.5 yards per game, good enough to rank fourth in the NFL.
While the running backs and the offensive line get much of the credit, the Titans said it is important not to overlook the blocking contributions of fullback Ahmard Hall, tight ends Alge Crumpler and Bo Scaife and even a somewhat maligned wide receiving corps that played Sunday with Brandon Jones and Lavelle Hawkins as the starters.
“We thought going into the season that a one-two punch with Chris and LenDale would be pretty dangerous, and it’s proven to be so,” Mawae said. “I think our offensive line has always been confident in what we’re capable of doing. We knew coming into the year that we were going to have a good front, and we knew teams were going to challenge us with eight and nine-man fronts. They’ve done that. They’ve challenged us on the blitz pickups and we’ve found some way to block it all up.”
Quarterback Kerry Collins is appreciative of the help in the run game and the all-around team effort as well.
“I don’t think we can say enough good things about the offensive line, Ahmard Hall and the receivers,” Collins said. “Any time you have long runs, the receivers are part of the blocking, and the tight ends overall. Our running game is strong and hopefully, it will continue that way.”