Nick Easter last night provided an insight into England's true feelings after their 17-12 victory over Italy when he said: "God, that was boring".
Mathew Tait's try early in the second half ultimately proved the difference, but England needed a late Jonny Wilkinson drop goal to finally kill off a spirited Italian effort.
The Azzurri had trailed 14-6 but pushed England to the brink with four penalties from Mirco Bergamasco.
England showed in flashes how dangerous an attacking force they could be and Tait's try was well-crafted by Easter, Ugo Monye and Delon Armitage.
But those moments were too few and far between. For the most part, the visitors spent far too long engaged in an aimless kicking contest and lacked ambition to break out of the tedious cycle.
Johnson and captain Steve Borthwick both sought to accentuate the positives afterwards.
But the boos which rang around the stadium on the final whistle - and Easter's honest words - told the whole story.
Rome has been a graveyard for Wales and Scotland in previous Six Nations championships and Johnson was relieved to have escaped with any kind of victory.
"You play Italy over here and it is never easy," said Johnson, who had described Italy away as one of the major hurdles in the championship.
"Scotland have lost here, Wales have lost here. I am happy to win but the guys knew they could have done better."
If Italy do anything well, it is to drag opponents into playing rugby in their own style. England fell for it save for a handful of ambitious flashes.
"Six-all at half-time is approximately where we expected it to be," added Johnson.
"We found a way to score but from there you want to keep the pressure on. We didn't. The kick-chase wasn't good enough."
Former England centre Jeremy Guscott claimed afterwards England's back three had been "brainwashed" into becoming robots who are scared of failure.
Credit must also go to Italy, who scrambled to snuff out the majority of England's counter-attacks and kept limited opportunities for Johnson's side.
But England ultimately won the game and are now two from two heading into a week off before Ireland arrive at Twickenham on February 27.
"I thought some of the stuff we did was outstanding," said Borthwick.
"We created chances, the try in the second half was sensational.
"We need to work on how clinical we were. Italy are a tremendously resilient team and when we got to those chances they were very good at killing it.
"There were a lot of positives and we will look at the areas were we need to finish off opportunities and look to improve."