Chris Johnson Leads the Tennessee Titans to Victory vs. Bucs
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The afternoon consisted of nine total turnovers from both teams. The wet football constantly slipped out of players' hands and caused a total of six lost fumbles and three interceptions in an ugly battle to say the least.
LaGarrette Blount ran all over Tennessee's D in the beginning of the game, breaking tackles and made it near impossible to take him down. However, Chris Johnson had the last laugh, as he ended the day with 190 rushing yards on 23 attempts and averaged 8.3 yards a carry.
C.J.'s success comes in games where the Titans get an early lead; and that's exactly what happened on Sunday.
After the Bucs kicked a field goal in the first quarter, Titans' special teams led by Marc Mariani lined up for the kickoff return. Speedy Tommy Campbell took the ball from Mariani on a reverse and blazed down the field 88 yards for the score.
That's when C.J. went to work. Tampa Bay ranks 29th in defending the run, and Johnson exploited it in what turned out to be his best outing of the season thus far.
Rod Bironas, unfortunately, snapped his field-goal streak of 12 straight makes with a missed 42-yarder in the second quarter; but he followed it with a 31-yarder on the Titans next possession.
Bucs receiver Mike Williams tacked on a late touchdown in the final seconds of the first half, which tied the game up 10-10 at halftime.
Tennessee came out in the second half poorly and ended their first two possessions with turnovers (Johnson fumble, Matt Hasselbeck pick-six). The Buccaneers regained the lead 17-10 after Aquib Talib took the Hasselbeck interception 27 yards for the score.
At this point in the game, the Titans, who were 5-5, found themselves down seven points at home against the worst defense in the league. The season was on the line and nothing spelled "must win" more than that scenario.
If you've forgotten, both of Texans' quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart are out for the season and thus, the division is there for the taking.
C.J. ended a dreadful third quarter with a 25-yard burst, reminding Titans' fans of that multi-million dollar speed.
That drive continued into the fourth quarter and, thanks to Hawkins and Washington, the Titans got into field goal range and added three more points on the board.
Down 17-13, Tennessee was still in need a touchdown, and when it counted, the defense made the stops and got the ball back in Hasselbeck's hands. On the Titans ensuing possession, down 17-13 with 7:14 left to play, Hasselbeck (along side C.J.) did something that hasn't been done in Tennessee since the Vince Young days: construct a drive to win the game.
The 80-yard drive consisted of Johnson's longest run of the game (34 yards) and two excellent catch-and-runs by Williams and Hawkins.
On fourth-and-goal from the two yard-line, Hasselbeck dropped back, pointed his receivers to the left, and delivered a strike to Damian Williams in the back of the end zone.
The catch was impressive, as Williams controlled his feet and tapped his left big toe in bounds for the score and the lead of 20-17 with 3:00 left to play.
Josh Freeman had two more opportunities to drive down the field, but stalled both times with an interception (Collin McCarthy) and a turnover on downs to end the game.
McCarthy stepped in and performed well for injured Barrett Ruud, who was out for Sunday's ugly battle against his former team. Also, Dave Ball came back and shined with four tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble with the recovery.
On a sloppy day, Titans called for victory formation and improved to 6-5 on the season.
It was truly satisfying to see Johnson use his abilities, but he needs to continue being a threat for the rest of the season. Needless to say, the Titans need help to win this division, and C.J. can be that help.
Next week, Tennessee travels to Buffalo to take on Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills, in what the forecast is calling a snowy Sunday in New York. Fred Jackson is out for the season with a knee injury.
The Titans trail the Texans in the AFC South by two games.
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