The Free Press, Mankato, MN


October 6, 2012

Run-first plan remains guide for Vikings, Titans



"You've seen a lot of teams abandon the running game and just go straight passing," Ponder said. "That's not what we're doing. Good thing is when you're getting two, three, four yards, you're always staying ahead of the sticks and that's important for us."

Keeping the ball on the ground becomes foolish, of course, when a team falls behind in the fourth quarter. The Vikings have been able to keep their tactic intact with a defense that's tied for seventh in the NFL in fewest average points allowed and special teams that produced two touchdowns last week at Detroit.

The Titans, however, have given up a league-high 151 points (almost 38 per game) and had to mostly abandon their use of running back Chris Johnson.

"We're asking our quarterback to have to do a lot more things because of the situation of the game," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "Minnesota's done a great job of not allowing that to happen because the defense has played well and because they've converted on third downs."

Johnson is just three years removed from his 2,000-yard season, but unlike Peterson his production has slowed since getting his lucrative long-term contract. Johnson needed a strong finish last year to reach 1,047 yards on a career-low 4-yard average per carry. Before finding a groove last week at Houston with 141 yards on 25 tries, Johnson totaled 45 yards on 33 attempts over his first three games for the Titans.

"We think he's capable, and we have to give him the opportunity to do it, though," Munchak said.

That's the weekly challenge for any team: knowing how to stick with the run even if it's not working right away.

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