Patriots 'D' flexes, shuts down Johnson

Patriots 'D' flexes, shuts down Johnson
September 10, 2012, 2:45 am
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NASHVILLE, TN -- In the week leading up to New England's season opener in Tennessee, Bill Belichick couldn't be kinder to Titans running back Chris Johnson.
Belichick called Johnson "very dangerous." He pointed to the 1,000-plus yard rushing seasons, and the 2,000-plus yard year, and turned his palms upward. The production, Belichick said, speaks for itself.
Johnson produced 4-yards rushing against the Patriots Sunday.
"I think when you put 11 guys together and you have goals, you don't want to let the guy beside you down," Vince Wilfork said of New England's effort. "One of our goals every year is being able to stop the run and playing good third down defense. Today we responded well against the run. I think throughout the preseason we showed improvement each week. This is something that I think can be a backbone for us -- if we can go into a game and just get teams one-dimensional. That will help us tremendously."
The output was the lowest rushing total in Johnson's five-year NFL career. Tennessee's entire ground game was reduced to 20 yards, 11 of which came from quarterback Jake Locker.
Johnson conceded it was a "tough day." For New England, it was a masterful translation of hard work.
"The thing with Chris Johnson is that he goes anywhere on the field on any run," cornerback Devin McCourty said in the post game. "We just wanted to make sure that we bottled him up and for the most part we were able to do that today.
"When you come out in Week 1 you have certain things that you want to get done in a game, and that was certainly one of them. So to get that done, it really shows that we are working hard and coming out there and executing on Sundays."
Contributions came from all three levels of the defense. And not just from veteran captains like Wilfork and McCourty.
In the second quarter, Johnson got the ball on second-and-10 with the Titans on their own 10-yard line. Rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower found Johnson and bullied him back for a 3-yard loss. On third down, Locker was in shotgun; another Patriots rookie, defensive end Chandler Jones, went after him. Jones got the sack and a forced fumble. Hightower scooped up the ball and muscled into the end zone for six points.
For one night, at least, the Patriots got the defensive help it needed and drafted.
"We are very excited about these guys and very, very, happy with the performance that these guys came out and had as a team and as a unit, especially being a defensive lineman and coming out and holding a great back to only four yards. That is just a good team defense. It is not just the guys up front, it is the backers, the secondary at times. We all play this game together. As long as we continue to play better and get better as a team, I think we will do some special things."