2013W09 CJ_05

How Chris Johnson got big runs against the Rams

Thanks to my Football Outsiders connection and a link with the Rams, I was fortunate enough to wind up in the press box of the Edward Jones Dome for last Sunday's game, with a view that greatly resembled the all-22 overhead shot. Because I was there with the FO link, my extended comments on the game, covering both the Titans and the Rams, ended up in Monday's Audibles column.

One of the big talking points after last Sunday was Chris Johnson and his 150-yard, 2 touchdown performance. In my recap after the game, I noted how I thought CJ got most of his yards, but I reserved the right to change my mind after seeing the end zone part of the all-22. To that end, I decided to watch Johnson's five longest carries, which accounted for 98 of his 150 yards, to see if there were common themes among them.

After the jump, the breakdown of each run. 

#1 (1Q 14:53): 1-10-TEN 32 C.Johnson left tackle to SL45 for 23 yards (R.McLeod).
 The first big run came on the first play of the game. Here's what the hole looked like.

I don't know if that hole was quite as big as the one from Indianapolis that haunts my nightmares, but I think it's easy to see why CJ was able to get to double-digit yards on that play.

#2 (3Q 5:04): 2-6-SL 14 C.Johnson right tackle for 14 yards, TOUCHDOWN. 
Chris Johnson finally makes it to the end zone!

Rams safety #20 Darian Stewart had come into the box as an extra defender, but even he's blocked. Once again all Johnson has to do to be successful is run forward.

#3 (4Q 11:46): 1-10-SL 32 C.Johnson right tackle pushed ob at SL 8 for 24 yards (R.McLeod). 
What's the cardinal rule of playing against Chris Johnson? Don't give him the edge. Who should know that? Aside from everyone, pretty much, how about someone who's spent years around him? And what happens here?

Former Titan Cortland Finnegan is the outside contain defender for any cutback run. After initially lining up just inside the numbers to the top of the field, he overplays the run action and comes all the way inside the hashes. That gives CJ precisely what you don't want to give him, lots of green grass with no defenders he has to avoid.

#4 (4Q 2:59): 1-10-SL 19 C.Johnson right end for 19 yards, TOUCHDOWN. 
Chris Johnson finds the end zone a second time. And what do we see here?

I've made this screenshot here a little bit later than the other ones, so you have a better view of just how small the hole is. I mean, this one is only like 5 feet wide, practically microscopic compared to the earlier ones. Fortunately, Johnson is able to work off Nate Washington's downfield block and go to the outside, where he's in a footrace with the safety instead of having to physically confront him.

#5 (4Q 2:21): 2-6-TEN 14 C.Johnson left tackle to TEN 32 for 18 yards (C.Finnegan). 
With the Rams overloading the box needing a stop and knowing the Titans are very likely to run the ball, I'm sure Chris Johnson had to make a player miss here…

Oh, nevermind.

As long as the Titans can conitnue to put Chris Johnson in the open field, where he doesn't have to confront or even elude any defenders to get to the third level, I'm confident he can rip off long runs the same way he did against the Rams.