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Notebook: CJ has Milestone Day

Posted Oct 21, 2012

Buffalo is where Chris Johnson roams.                          

Johnson rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries against the statistically softest run defense in the NFL this season in Sunday’s 35-34 Titans victory over the Bills. He averaged 10.8 yards per carry.

SEE IT AGAIN WITH NFL GAME REWIND

The fifth-year running back has increased his rushing total all three times he’s gone against the Bills. He had 132 yards rushing and 100 receiving yards at home in 2009 and 153 rushing yards with two TD runs in a win at Buffalo last December.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad game versus them, but it seems like my offensive line, they come through when we come here or whatever,” Johnson said. “They did a great job of getting on the linemen and getting to the second level of the linebackers and my fullback did a great job of blocking all game.”

Johnson recorded both of his touchdowns Sunday in the first quarter, becoming only the third player in Titans/Oilers franchise history with 40 career rushing TDs (Earl Campbell, 73 and Eddie George, 64), at least 30 games with 100-yards rushing (Campbell, 39 and George, 36) and at least 6,000 career rushing yards (Campbell, 10,009 and George, 8,574).

Johnson darted up the middle, glided to the outside, obtained the edge and gracefully launched himself from the four-yard line across the goal line for a 16-yard score on the Titans’ opening possession.  

He set an NFL record on his next carry when he found an opening thanks to a block by Quinn Johnson and zoomed 83 yards untouched for the score, becoming the only player in league history with four scores of 83 yards or more. It was the fifth-longest run in team history behind 91-, 89- and 85 yarders by Johnson during his 2,006-yard effort in 2009 and a 91-yarder by Sid Blanks in 1964.

It was also Johnson’s 10th career TD run of at least 45 yards, which tied O.J. Simpson for third all-time.

MILESTONES FOR HASSELBECK TOO: Fourteen-year NFL veteran Matt Hasselbeck recorded the second straight comeback victory and engineered his 22nd career game-winning drive.

Starting in place of injured second-year QB Jake Locker for the third straight week, Hasselbeck recorded his 199th career TD pass in dramatic fashion when he fired the ball to Nate Washington for a 15-yard score that converted a fourth-and-9 with 1:03 left in the game. The pass tied the score at 34, and Rob Bironas added the decisive extra point.

“The coaches, I think, designed the play to go to Nate,” Hasselbeck said. “I was looking at Jared (Cook) first, and I think I held the safety just a little bit. The wind kind of took the ball and put it in there nice, Nate made a great catch. It was a great feeling. Small window, I think the wind made it look like a better throw than it was because it kind of knifed right down in there, but those are the kinds of plays that Nate makes.

“He’s made a few of them for us this year; it’s just a great feeling,” Hasselbeck continued. “We practice those situations all the time in practice, it doesn’t always even work in practice. To pull through once again in a close game for our third win, in a game that came down basically to the last play, was a great feeling.”

Tennessee started the game-winning drive with a sack of Hasselbeck, but the quarterback erased the 8-yard loss by connecting with Washington for a gain of 19 on second-and-18. Washington, however, fumbled the ball backward 2 yards and out of bounds as he was tackled. Chris Johnson took the ball on third-and-1 and scampered 27 yards to the Buffalo 16.

Hasselbeck missed Washington on a second-down play, and got a short gain with a pass to the receiver on third down before connecting for the winner.

“It was just a situation where (Buffalo) was sitting on the sticks,” Washington said. “Our coach saw some things on fourth-and-9, and we had to take a shot at the goal. Matt (Hasselbeck) just told me and Cookie (Jared Cook) that he was going to try to give one of us a shot and it just so happened to be me and I’m just thankful.”

HARPER ADDS CONTRAST: Second-year RB Jamie Harper recorded his first two touchdown game, scoring from 1 yard both times.

Harper and Johnson are listed at the same height (5-foot-11) but Harper outweighs Johnson by 30 to 40 pounds and has a dramatically different rushing style. It was Harper’s third TD of the season (1-yard each). He finished with seven carries for eight yards.

Johnson said he didn’t mind the ball going to someone else on the short carries, as long as touchdowns and Titans wins continue.

“I feel like we’re pretty unselfish because there’s a lot of games where the passing game is going very well and then the running back’s aren’t pouting, and then when the running game is going well the receivers aren’t pouting,” Johnson said. “I think we’ve got a lot of guys who have been in this league and haven’t been to the playoffs in a long time, and basically at the end of the day that’s everybody’s goal, so no matter how we win the game, we’re proud as long as we get the W.”

TITANS CLAIM TWO TURNOVERS: The Titans did not commit any turnovers for the first time this season and forced two turnovers that led to 14 points.

Kamerion Wimbley speared Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick from his blindside, recording a sack and forcing a fumble that Derrick Morgan recovered at the Buffalo 32 on the first play of the second half.

The Titans punched it in with Harper’s second TD eight plays later for a 28-20 lead.

A turnover also preceded the winning drive in the fourth quarter when Jason McCourty intercepted Fitzpatrick with 2:57 remaining.

“I think maybe the play before (Fitzpatrick) thought he had it, and I think probably before the snap he already knew he was going to go there,” McCourty said. “The wind kind of took it, and the ball fell right in my hands. I was just happy I was able to give our offense the chance to win the game.”

FINAL STAND: Fitzpatrick and the Bills got the ball at their own 20 with 1:03 remaining. Fitzpatrick tried to hit receivers for short gains that they could turn into larger ones, but the Titans made tackles at the most opportune times.

Fitzpatrick completed a 6-yard pass to Fred Jackson, but Alterraun Verner and Jordan Babineaux stopped him there. Fitzpatrick then threw a 2-yard pass to tight end Scott Chandler, but defensive tackle Mike Martin dropped into coverage and immediately made the stop.

Babineaux tipped the next pass that was intended for Chandler and pressured Fitzpatrick into a bad throw that fell incomplete by blitzing to give the ball back to the Titans to run out the final 26 seconds.

Babineaux said he received an earful from defensive coordinator Jerry Gray earlier in the game and agreed with the coach. Babineaux said he focused on executing better thereafter “because I knew at some point I would have a chance to make that play.”

“Once the offense scored, here I am starting to get myself focused on their two-minute route concept that they like to run,” Babineaux said. “Obviously they had to throw the ball down field, and a few calls put us in position. I was able to get a hand on the ball and get a hit on the quarterback the last two plays of the game.”

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