With Vince Young in the Limelight, Johnson Quietly Closing on Record

Bryan HollisterAnalyst IDecember 1, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 29:  Teammates Alan Branch #78 and Bryant McFadden #25 of the Arizona Cardinals try to tackle Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans during their game at LP Field on November 29, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

He dodges. He stutter-steps. He fakes left, then darts right.

And before you know it, Chris Johnson has eluded you, passed you like you are standing still, and scored. Sometimes from deep in his own territory.

So why isn't he front-page news?

Because he plays on the same team as Vince Young, that's why.

Young's unbelievable resurgence in leading the Tennessee Titans on an unprecedented comeback from an 0-6 start is certainly newsworthy; not only did doubting football fans not expect him to be able to do it, but no one could have guessed the Titans would be one game back of contending—seriously contending—for a wildcard spot at this point.

Yet here they are, and Vince Young is rightfully basking in the glow of the limelight.

But he hasn't shouldered the burden alone. Chris Johnson deserves at least some of the credit.

While the Titans were losing, he was the lone bright spot in a cloud of controversy. With two noteable exceptions against Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, Johnson rushed for right at or over 100 yards a game, averaging 99.3 yards per game for the first six weeks.

In his last five games, however, he has turned up the wick, picking up better than 130 yards in each contest and averaging—averaging —an astounding 160 yards per contest.

Unprecedented, to say the least. Record-setting at best.

For those of you counting, thats 6.5 yards every time he touches the ball. His closest competitor averages 4.7 yards a carry. Not shabby, but not enough.

Johnson also has three rushing touchdowns of over 85 yards, and six touchdowns overall of 50 yards or more, including a 69-yard reception. In one season.

In total yards, he is ahead of where Eric Dickerson was at this point in the season when the rushing record of 2,105 yards was set in 1984 (for the record, Johnson wasn't even born then). He has also tied Dickerson and former Oiler great Earl Campbell as the only three players in history with six consecutive games with 125 yards or more. I would expect that record to fall next week against Indianapolis.

In fact, let's go ahead and call that a record too; no other running back in the Super Bowl era has had five consecutive games at better than 130 yards per game, at least as far as I can find out.

Want another record? He is the only player in league history to have six consecutive games of 125 yards while averaging five yards or better per carry, besting the great Jim Brown by one. So far.

The only fly in the ointment is that Dickerson averaged 131.6 yards per game in his record-setting season; at the moment, Johnson is sitting at only 126.9 yards per game.

In order to take the title, he will need nearly 142 yards per game over the next five weeks, and that is just to tie the record, not break it.

However, with five games left on the schedule against defenses that rank no better than 12th against the run, this is not an unmanageable task. With defenses having to account for the scrambling abilities of Vince Young, Johnson should have lanes aplenty to run through.

And of course, there is his blazing speed to account for. A 4.2-second 40-yard-dash? Please. The only way you catch him is if he lets you.

All in all, the best thing that could happen to Johnson is for Vince Young to continue his success, at least for the next five weeks. With all the attention elsewhere, he is likely to slip under everyone's radar and make off with Dickerson's mantle.

Then we could have yet another Music City Miracle to go along with the first two, and possibly the one where Tennessee runs the table on the season and makes the playoffs.

Wouldn't that be a season for the ages?