Chris Johnson Shut Down vs Patriots: Why It's Not All His Fault
If you look at the box score of the Tennessee Titans' 34-13 loss to the New England Patriots, you'll notice in the stat column that Chris Johnson had an awful game on the ground, similar to most of his performances last season.
However, if you actually watched the game, you'll see the real issue: the offensive line. Not to take anything away from the Patriots' defense, which did an outstanding job in every aspect of Sunday's game, but the Titans' offensive line got pushed backwards almost every running play.
Expecting Johnson to outrun eleven defenders every play is asking a bit much of even the best running backs in the league. You can't expect a fish to swim without any water, and the Titans' offensive line provided no water for the Titans running game as a whole, not just for Johnson.
Johnson finished the game with four yards on eleven carries, an abysmal performance for a running back who once ran for 2000 yards in a season. This performance is very similar to what he did last season. Even with the addition of All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson, the Titans were still not able to get any type of push.
Another indication of it not being completely Johnson's fault was the fact that Darius Reynaud and Jamie Harper both also struggled to run the football efficiently. They combined for three carries and five yards (although Harper's only carry came in the closing seconds of the game).
Jake Locker, the Titans' starting quarterback, lead the team in rushing with eleven yards on two carries, which goes to show that the offensive line wasn't opening holes for anyone. When your starting quarterback is the leading rusher on your team, you know there is a huge problem with your offense.
Who is more to blame for the Titans' struggles in the running game?
Johnson is not completely innocent, as on a few carries he danced around a bit, trying to make a big play when he didn't need to. He did make a few big plays in the passing game, catching six passes for 47 yards, but on the ground, Johnson was a non-factor.
At the end of the day, all the credit goes to the Patriots' defense. They did what they had to do against a running back like Johnson; stack the box on running downs and close up all the gaps. The Titans had no answer for the Patriots' terrorizing front seven.
With two Hall-of-Fame offensive linemen in the coaching staff (head coach Mike Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews), the fact that this offensive line has struggled with run blocking has to be disappointing and frustrating. You can bet that the Titans' starting offensive line will catch an earful from both men.
This performance as a whole by the running game is unacceptable. Johnson was expected to be the most explosive that he's been in his career, but after this performance, it's apparent that it may not happen if the offensive line does not improve.
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