By Terry McCormick, sports@timesfreepress
KANSAS CITY — The Tennessee Titans have plenty of reason to smile with their 6-0 start.
But after Sunday’s 34-10 pasting of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Titans were in letting loose with the laughter.
The primary reasons for those laughs were the long fourth-quarter touchdown runs by the duo of LenDale White and Chris Johnson, whom White introduced in the post-game press conference as “Smash and Dash.”
White and Johnson “smashed and dashed” their way as part of Tennessee’s franchise record-setting 332-yard rushing day against the Chiefs. As part of that, Johnson finished with 168 yards rushing with one touchdown, while White had 149 yards and three scores, giving him eight for the season.
With White, what drew the laughter from teammates and media was his 80-yard touchdown where he broke into the clear and rumbled into the end zone with three Kansas City defenders closing fast after White had about a 20-yard head start.
White, listed graciously at 235 pounds, took plenty of ribbing after the score.
“Everybody said I needed some IVs, and I told everybody that if the blocking is right I can go 80,” White said. “I always say that if the blocking is right, I can go 80, and it looked good. As soon as I made the cut, it was nothing but green grass.”
Linebacker Keith Bulluck said there was no doubt he would have caught White despite the head start, if he had been a defender on the play.
“Yes. I definitely would have. We can go out there and race on Monday just to clear the air,” Bulluck said.
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said he thought the husky running back needed oxygen afterwards.
“I was ready to bring the cart out for him and help him back to the sideline,” Haynesworth said. “If you saw me, I was trying to help him to the bench before he passed out. (I was trying) to get him some oxygen or something.”
Added quarterback Kerry Collins as to his reaction on seeing White break into the clear, “Two things: First of all, I didn’t think he had it in him. And second of all, somebody’s going to catch him, surely. But he turned it on. It was a great run. Obviously a big hole, and he showed me something.”
Johnson then captured the spotlight on the next series. He had 99 yards rushing before that series, and after a three-yard gain to go over the century mark for the second time in six games, the rookie broke into the clear and raced 66 yards for a touchdown. That Johnson would break away was not a surprise. It was what took place afterwards that garnered the attention.
After leaping head first into the end zone, he raced behind the goalpost where the Chief pep band was seated and began playing the bongo drums, drawing a 15-yard penalty after the score and a certain fine from the NFL this week.
“I thought about it earlier before the game and I know Coach Fisher talked to me and said, ‘You can’t be doing that,’ saying that it’s disrespect, but I was just out there trying to have some fun,” Johnson said.
Tackle Michael Roos said the team will laugh along with Johnson, even if it costs him some money.
“All we can do is laugh and enjoy it with him. He did it at a good time,” Roos said. “You don’t want to do it when it’s a close ballgame, but it was out of reach, and he put it really out of reach. If he’s willing to pay the fine that’s probably coming his way, then we’ll laugh with him.”
Down and out
The Titans record rushing day came at a good time since starting wide receivers Justin Gage and Justin McCareins were both out. In their stead, rookie Lavelle Hawkins had the first two catches of his career for 11 yards, while both Brandon Jones and third receiver Paul Williams were without a catch.
“Coming into the game, I needed to get at least one (reception,)” Hawkins said. “I’m excited right now. I just wanted to build on that for the rest of the season.”
Kerry Collins finished 11 of 18 for 123 yards with no touchdown passes or interceptions.
The Titans defense turned in a solid performance, despite not having Tony Brown, who was inactive with an ankle injury, and having Kyle Vanden Bosch exit after the first series. Vanden Bosch strained a groin against Baltimore and said he was not fully healed yet.
“It felt good in pre-game and felt good in warm-ups, but when I got out there, it just wasn’t 100 percent,” Vanden Bosch said. “And the way our defense is set up, especially for our d-line, you need to be able to go 100 percent.”
Still, the Titans held the Chiefs to 58 yards rushing and knocked Kansas City quarterbacks Brodie Croyle (knee) and Damon Huard (thumb) out of the game. Croyle’s injury is season-ending.