It definitely was not a case of less is more.
Chris Johnson got less carries as last Sunday’s season-opener progressed because the Tennessee Titans did not have more points. The decrease in attempts lessened the potential for him to make plays.
That’s the way the veteran running back saw it Thursday at least. In his only media session of the practice week he was not interested in assigning blame for his career-worst rushing performance — four yards on 11 carries — against the New England Patriots.
“I think throughout my career I have always been a back where it might not be going well in the first quarter but if we keep running, eventually bust one,” he said. “But when you’re down by so many points and you have to go one-dimensional and you can’t run the ball the stat sheet is going to look ugly.
“But at the end of the day we all have one goal and that’s to get the victory.”
That’s how things worked for the San Diego Chargers, the Titans’ opponent Sunday (4:25 p.m., CBS).
The Chargers attempted just four more runs than the Titans in their respective openers (20-16). They were two of just three teams that failed to average at least two yards per rush.
The big difference was that San Diego won its opener, Monday night against Oakland. Tennessee lost 34-13 to New England. The Patriots led by 18 at halftime and maintained at least an 11-point advantage throughout the final two quarters.
“That’s why it’s hard when you’re getting hammered on justifying why he only had what he had,” coach Mike Munchak said. “The problem is, you have to do well with the few you get. When you don’t, and in his case, we had four or five bad runs out of his share, it gets magnified more when you don’t get as many carries. The goal was to get more carries.”
In three seasons under Jeff Fisher, Johnson averaged 19.6 carries per game and 1,532.7 yards per season. In 17 games under Munchak and current offensive coordinator Chris Palmer his averages have dipped to 16.1 attempts and barely surpassed 1,000 yards in 2011.
“It’s not a thing where you can sit there and blame Palmer for not giving me enough rushes,” Johnson said. “Earlier in the game we have to execute our plays and at least keep the game close or be winning so we can run our offense.”
The less-is-more theory does hold true in one regard.
The less success Johnson has, particularly after he held out of training camp a year ago in search of a big contract, which he got, the more scrutiny he gets.
“It makes you upset,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, from an offensive standpoint, when things don’t go right I know everything is going to get pointed to me because I’m the main focal point — I’ve got the big contract and whatever. I know I just have to continue to work, just like all my other offensive players.
“… It’s not just a one-man effort. It’s not just me changing how I run or running hard. It’s the whole group.”