Tennessee RB Chris Johnson: Monster or myth?
November 1, 2012, 10:17 pm
The mantra of the Chicago Bears defense is to take away an opponent’s run game and make that team one-dimensional, then loose the pass rush.
The stop-run concept is sound. The Bears have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 18 straight games, not since Jahvid Best’s 163 in the first Detroit game last season.
Whether that is a good approach to the Tennessee Titans, however, is a matter of opinion. It may be in their best interests to just let former All-Pro Chris Johnson run.
The Bears completely throttled Johnson the last time the two teams met (2008), allowing him just eight yards in 14 carries. The Bears lost that game 21-14 because they couldn’t control journeyman QB Kerry Collins.
The Bears are paying the standard game-week compliments.
“Chris Johnson is a homerun hitter,” said linebacker Lance Briggs.
So is Adam Dunn for the White Sox and he strikes out a lot. A lot.
Johnson may well run amok. He has in his career, with an NFL-record four touchdown runs of 80 yards or longer. Not Barry Sanders, O.J. Simpson nor anyone else has done that more than three times.
He exploded on the NFL with 2,006 yards in 2009, his second season. But the Titans were an 8-8 team that year and have only had one winning season (2011, 9-7) since Johnson’s rookie season.
And the Bears are the NFL’s best rushing defense at 77.9 yards per game.Big stats vs. bad teams
But Johnson has been less than impressive over the past three years against good teams. Of his last 12 games rushing for 100 yards, only two have come against teams with winning records.
Johnson had four 100-yard games in 2011, against Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Cleveland, teams with a combined record of 20-44. None of the four ranked higher than 25th against the run. His peak was 190 against the Buccaneers’ 32nd-ranked run defense.
This year, Johnson ran for 141 yards against the Houston Texans; the Titans were blown out by 24. He ran for 195 yards against Buffalo. The Titans needed a Matt Hasselbeck TD pass with 1 minute to play for a 35-34 escape from a team that is the NFL’s worst against the run and close to firing defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt.
The Titans lavished a four-year contract extension worth as much as $53.5 million prior to last season. They have not gotten their money’s worth, although Johnson helped set the market in which Matt Forte was working this year when he got his new deal done.
But while Hasselbeck has done damage to the Bears, Johnson is the declared source of most concern.
“He’s lightning. He can hit a hole with a great deal of quickness, but it’s his ability to cut back and break outside,” said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. “I mean, he’s something.”
Just what exactly isn’t always or entirely clear.
Tags: Tennessee Titans
, Chicago Bears
, Chris Johnson
, John Mullin
, Matt Hasselbeck