For Chris Johnson, the cure for a slow season is simply to play the Buffalo Bills.
In 2010, he had eight games over 100 yards rushing and was a fantasy football beast (1609 total yards, 12 TDs), but come 2011, Superman had returned to earth, putting up only two dominant looking games by week 13.
Even though he had broken loose for 190 yards in week 12 against Tampa Bay, the Bucs were absolute last defending the run in 2011, giving up 2,497 yards and 26 touchdowns, so those numbers aren’t exactly surprising.Last season, after an extended hold out period, Johnson was so-so when he returned to the Titans.
In fact, last season saw Johnson with just two rushing touchdowns coming into the Titans week 13 matchup with the Bills, and though he had rushed over 100 yards three times to that point, they were against terrible defenses like Tampa and Cleveland.
However, coming to Buffalo was just the shot in the arm he needed, as Johnson ripped off 153 yards and two touchdowns, thoroughly dominating the Bills in front of their home crowd and looking like the premier back he was paid to be. It not only gave Tennessee a 23-17 win, but it officially knocked Buffalo out for the season, giving them their fifth loss in as many games and dropping their win-loss mark to 5-7.
Fast forward to 2012, when Buffalo’s revamped defense was supposed to not only give them a pass rush, but also shore up a run defense that gave up 2,224 yards last season.
Buffalo’s 35-34 home loss Sunday against the Titans just ended up proving how little has actually changed in the last year.
Though Johnson didn’t hold out like he did last season, his only 100+ yard game to this point was a surprising 141 against the Houston Texans week 4. He still hadn’t scored a TD coming into Sunday’s contest, put up less than 30 yards rushing four times in six weeks, and was on a team that had managed a weak 2-4 record.
Again, all Johnson needed was a good ole dose of Buffalo.
Granted, it helps that Buffalo is currently ranked 32nd out of 32 teams against the run, giving up an average of 176.9 ground yards per game, but the Bills had held some decent runners like Jamal Charles and Shonne Green under 100 this year. Also, Buffalo was coming off a promising defensive showing against the Cardinals and were returning home on a one game win streak after two long weeks on the West coast, so you had to think they’d put up a good fight against a Titans team ranked only 28th in rushing.
Johnson ran for 195, scored his first two TDs of the year, and made the revamped and revitalized (?) Buffalo defense look worse than the injured and undermanned one they fielded in 2011.
The Bills just couldn’t keep the Titans runners out of the endzone, as even backup 2nd year man Jamie Harper got two rushing touchdowns on the day, and the Buffalo defense fell further away from the glory so many predicted for 2012. It was an embarrassing showing on all fronts, made doubly so by the fact that these same Titans pulled off the same feat just a year ago in Western New York.
In the end, the final drive to seal the win for Tennessee featured Johnson’s biggest run of the day, as the Bills were up six and simply had to stop a third and one on their 43 yard line. Instead, Mario Williams and the boys gave up a 27 yard run to Johnson for the first down, which eventually resulted in a fourth and nine throw to the endzone for a Titans score and the win.
In the end, the Bills proved once more how little their team has actually improved since last season, especially on the defensive side. Now heading to a bye week with more questions than answers, the Bills are in freefall and neither the coaches nor players seem to have a plan for getting back on track.
For a game that was supposed to be a surefire win for Buffalo, all fans got was a rerun of a disappointing game they saw in 2011, though I’m sure Chris Johnson was more than happy to repeat it just the same.