NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The home supporters in attendance for Monday night’s game already knew full well the duality of their star running back: For all the listless one-yard runs into the line, there’s always the outside chance that Chris Johnson leaves the other 21 players on the field in his wake for an electrifying score.
The Jets knew it, too, and yet there was Johnson at 8:53 of the second quarter, slipping through a hole up the middle and breaking free virtually untouched for a 94-yard touchdown run -- the longest in Titans history and the second-longest ever on Monday Night Football -- to give the Titans a 7-3 lead in the first half.
Backed up inside the 10 after a well-placed Robert Malone punt, the Titans handed off to Johnson on consecutive plays midway through the second quarter. His first carry gained a yard out to the 6-yard line. He took his second straight up the middle, outrunning safety Yeremiah Bell for the final 80 yards.
“You have to try to catch him and make the tackle,” Bell said. “I know he’s fast, but anytime you see anyone break open it’s our job to try to run them down and catch them.”
“We knew coming in he’s their best weapon on offense, and we knew coming in to try to stop the run,” said linebacker David Harris. “You can blame me, I should’ve made a tackle. Good play by them.”
Harris was not the only defender to shoulder the blame in public. Nose tackle Sione Po’uha was sealed off by Tennessee guard Kyle DeVan, while tackle Mike Devito couldn’t shake a double-team as tight end Craig Stevens neutralized LaRon Landry in the second level to free up the entire right side of the interior.
“I definitely favored a side in there and definitely thought he was going to hit that A-gap, and then he hit that sharp cut to the left,” Po’uha said. “I definitely favored a side.”
“I know I probably could’ve jammed my guy down better into that gap, so I’ll have to look at it and see what’s going on,” Devito said.
Burned once by the home run, the Jets proved more than able to contain Johnson throughout the rest of the night. Take away the 94-yard run, and Johnson finished with 28 yards on 20 carries.
With all that was at stake on Monday, hypotheticals like that may hurt that much more.