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Sun, Oct 30, 2011 - 1:00 PM ET
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The Tennessee Titans are sticking by star running back Chris Johnson, who after a public holdout this summer is having a dismal season.

A visit from the winless Indianapolis Colts could allow him to at least temporarily silence his critics.

Johnson will look to get on track Sunday against a Colts team that's coming off one of the ugliest losses in franchise history.

After leading the league in rushing yards from 2008-10, Johnson held out before agreeing to a four-year contract extension worth $53 million - $30 million guaranteed.

He said his goal for 2011 was a second 2,000-yard rushing season, but he is far off that pace, having run for 268 yards and one touchdown in the first six games. He was held to 18 yards on 10 carries in Tennessee's 41-7 loss to Houston last Sunday.

While Johnson was booed loudly by the fans, coach Mike Munchak refused to put the blame squarely on the running back.

"Chris has had a great career here in three short years. I think it's hard when you're going through a spot for the first time in his career he's not having the success he's had for three years. I think all athletes struggle with that concept ... To run the ball well, it takes 10 other guys," Munchak said.

A favorable schedule could help Johnson and the Titans (3-3) turn things around after back-to-back losses, as two of their next three opponents rank near the bottom of the league against the rush.

The Colts are 31st at 150.9 yards allowed per game, and Tennessee visits 29th-ranked Carolina (133.4) on Nov. 13.

If the ground game can get going, it could open things up for Matt Hasselbeck, who went 14 of 30 for 104 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions last week.

Although he's shouldered a lot of the responsibility for the last two losses, Johnson said everyone needs to be accountable for the Titans' struggles.

That's particularly true on defense. Tennessee gave up 56 points in its first four games, holding teams to 351 yards rushing. In the last two contests, the Titans have surrendered 79 points and 396 yards on the ground.

Facing Indianapolis (0-6) might be a temporary cure-all.

The miserable season for the Colts got worse last week as they were pounded 62-7 by New Orleans, giving up the highest point total in team history while suffering their second-biggest loss.

The Saints passed for 321 yards and ran for 236, taking a 28-0 lead in the first 20 minutes. Curtis Painter went 9 of 17 for 67 yards and one interception.

"We all screwed it up, and we all got beat as bad as you can get beat," center Jeff Saturday said. "There are not enough fingers to go around, so we can all share the same burden here and the same blame. We've got to get it fixed and go play better next week."

While Peyton Manning's neck injury explains the Colts' woeful offense, the defense has also struggled. Indianapolis ranks 30th with 416.0 yards allowed per game, and it's yielded an average of 179.0 rushing yards in the last four contests.

The Colts' last three opponents have completed 80.2 percent of their passes for 846 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. Matt Cassel, Andy Dalton and Drew Brees have combined for a passer rating of 138.1 in those games.

Injuries haven't helped matters, as Indianapolis placed former Titans quarterback Kerry Collins on injured reserve with a concussion Tuesday. He was signed due to Manning's injury and started the Colts' first three games.

The loss of Collins leaves the team with Painter and veteran backup Dan Orlovsky.

Fullback Chris Gronkowski has also been placed on injured reserve, while starting guard Joe Reitz had arthroscopic surgery on his injured knee and is out indefinitely.

All of that could add up to an end to the Colts' five-game winning streak over the Titans.

"They've always been a historic franchise, top of the AFC South," Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. "We've got to go out there and put our best foot forward."

Tagged: Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Cassel, Chris Johnson, Chris Gronkowski

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