Offense: Chris Johnson
While the overall stats weren’t totally overwhelming, 17 rushes for 61 yards, Johnson did get in the end zone twice against one of the better rushing defenses in the league. Minnesota, and their huge defensive line, were able to take away most of the Titan’s inside running game (LenDale White averaged 1.2 yards per carry on 11 rushes), but Johnson’s ability to hit the outside exploited what weaknesses there were. It was interesting to see how often Johnson was on the field, regardless of field position. Both of “Solid Gold’s” TDs were in goal line situations that we’ve been accustomed to seeing LenDale punch in. The Titans took a few chances running Johnson up the middle to no avail, but when they got him the ball on the outside he got into the end zone untouched. I would guess that as the season goes on, we’ll see the amount of carries vary from week to week, but on Sunday Chris Johnson looked like a feature back that played very well against one of the best rush defenses in the NFL.
Honorable Mention: Justin Gage returned from his one game hiatus with a 92 yards receiving performance. While no receiver reached the end zone on Sunday, the Titans passing game is what moved the ball, with Gage’s 92 yards accounting for more yardage than the entire Tennessee rushing attack combined. Gage/McCareins might not exactly be as feared as a Boldin/Fitzgerald tandem, but the two Justin’s are a solid base for the Tennessee receiving corps.
Defense: Albert Haynesworth
At the quarter point of the season, the Tennessee defense has been the best in the NFL. Giving up a paltry 11.5 points per contest, every phase of the D has been clicking in a way that should scare the rest of the league. At the center of this is Haynesworth, perhaps the best defensive player in football, making opposing offenses change there approach in a way that very few players in football can. Looking at the stat sheet after games will very rarely, if at all, show the mark he leaves on each game. More than likely Haynesworth will never lead the team in any major statistical category, but the fact most teams need at least two guys to try to contain him allows for the rest of the defense to do their thing with a few less people in their way. Inexplicably week 4 will mark Albert’s first game ball (we know he’s been anxiously waiting for this), not only for another dominant effort (2 sacks in a suffocating win), but for being the defensive MVP for the first quarter of the season.
Honorable Mention: DT Tony Brown had himself a fine game on Sunday vs. the Vikes. Lined up next to Haynesworth, the 4th year player out of Memphis continued his solid play as perhaps the least familiar player on the D line. Brown recorded 5 tackles with a fumble recovery and 1.5 sacks, bringing his season total to 3.5.