Titans' Johnson reaches rare milestone
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee running back Chris Johnson has reached another career milestone in an otherwise bleak losing season for the Titans.
Johnson has become just the eighth player in NFL history to run for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first five seasons, topping the plateau in Sunday's loss to Indianapolis. The others in that category are Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Corey Dillon, Eddie George and LaDanian Tomlinson.
“It's real special to be amongst some elite company like those guys or whatever,” Johnson said. “Just give God a lot of thanks being able to stay healthy all the first five years I've been in the league and to be able to go over a thousand yards each of those years.”
Johnson has missed only one game in his five seasons, and that came in 2008 when the Titans sat him for the regular season finale to protect him for the playoffs in his rookie season.
Reaching 1,000 yards seemed impossible back in September. Johnson ran for 4, 17 and 24 yards in each of his first three games and the Titans were last in the NFL in rushing. Then Johnson broke out with 141 yards, and only Adrian Peterson (1,370) and Doug Martin of Tampa Bay (1,020) have more yards rushing than his 992 since the fourth week of the season.
Now Johnson is averaging 4.7 yards on his 223 carries for 1,037 yards for the season, seventh in the NFL.
“I'm very proud of that because you know, in this game of football, you have a lot of ups and downs no matter what type of player you are,” Johnson said. “You know you're going to have good moments and you're going to have your down moments. It's all about how you bring it back and how you overcome those down moments.”
It's been mostly down for the Titans (4-9), who have lost five of their last six games for their second losing season in three years.
But with three games left, Johnson easily should top the 1,047 yards he had last season in his worst year as a professional. He had been on pace for his third best season behind only 2009 when he ran for 2,009 yards as the sixth man in NFL history to top 2,000 and in 2010 when he followed that up by running for 1,364 yards.
Then coach Mike Munchak fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer on Nov. 26 and gave the job to quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. The Titans also lost two more starting offensive linemen Dec. 2 in a loss to Houston, leaving left tackle Michael Roos as the only starter from the beginning of training camp.
Johnson ran for 51 yards in the loss to Houston, and he was held to 44 yards on 19 carries in the 27-23 loss at Indianapolis. He topped 1,000 yards for the season on his third carry against the Colts and didn't have a run longer than 8 yards in the game.
Munchak said Monday the Titans were not as consistent running the ball as they needed to be and also that Johnson cut back too fast at times.
For Johnson, he said the past two games have been frustrating with all the changes. His next chance to run comes Monday night when the Titans host the New York Jets (6-7), a team Johnson ran for 97 yards against in his last game.
“Really nothing I can do about it. Just continue to work hard in practice and try to get better each week,” Johnson said.