Titans RB Johnson regains stride against Bills

Titans left tackle Michael Roos had a pleasant flashback

watching the back of Chris Johnson’s jersey disappear in the

distance on his way to the end zone against the Buffalo Bills.

For Roos, it looked like something from 2009, when Johnson

became just the sixth NFL player to break 2,000 yards rushing.

”It was, and I think everybody has been waiting for him to get

back to that,” Roos said. ”We can see that he can still do it.

And it was good for us to have a game like this with that many

yards rushing.”

How many? Try 195, the third-highest total of Johnson’s career,

and most since he had a career-best 228 against Jacksonville on

Nov. 1, 2009.

Better still, Johnson scored twice – including an electrifying

83-yard run – in a 35-34 win on Sunday.

Johnson finally hit the gas, ending a near season-long slump in

which he entered the game with 301 yards rushing and no scores.

And quarterback Matt Hasselbeck delivered in the clutch for the

second straight week, securing the win by completing a 15-yard

go-ahead touchdown pass on fourth down to Nate Washington with 1:03

left. Hasselbeck, who’s 2-1 in three games since taking over for

injured Jake Locker, rallied the Titans to a 26-23 win over

Pittsburgh on Oct. 11.

All of a sudden Johnson and the Titans (3-4) appear to be in a

lot better shape in a tightly contested AFC race than they did

after stumbling to a 1-4 start.

”Yeah, I feel like we’re stepping up and kind of just giving

ourselves confidence,” said Johnson. ”I think it’s showing us

what we can do every Sunday.”

The Bills (3-4), by comparison, head into their bye week

continuing to show what they’re incapable of doing.

They can’t stop Johnson, who’s now combined for 480 yards

rushing and six touchdowns in three games against Buffalo. And they

haven’t been able to stop anyone of late, having allowed 937 yards

rushing in their last four games – including 311 against San

Francisco two weeks ago.

”Oh, yeah, it’s frustrating,” defensive end Chris Kelsay said.

”It’s embarrassing.”

What made it worse is that Johnson all but dared the Bills to

stop him on Thursday, when the running back suggested he was up for

a big game against the NFL’s worst run defense.

”He challenged us, and we didn’t step up to the plate,” Kelsay

said.

There’s more than defensive troubles the Bills need to address

in the two weeks before they return to the field in a game at

Houston.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to raise questions about

his inconsistency. Though he finished 27 of 35 for 225 and three

scores, Fitzpatrick had two costly turnovers that led to Titans

touchdowns. That included his ill-advised pass on third-and-6 that

was intercepted by Jason McCourty at midfield with 2:57 to set up

the decisive score.

Fitzpatrick blamed himself.

”I got greedy in a situation where I didn’t have any business

being greedy in,” Fitzpatrick said, referring to his attempt to

force a pass to Donald Jones at the right sideline. ”It was a dumb

throw and dumb decision by me. Third down, and game on the line,

(coach) Chan (Gailey) put the ball in my hands, and I throw an

interception. That one hurts.”

The interception negated what had been an efficient game for

Fitzpatrick, who put the Bills ahead 34-28 with a 27-yard touchdown

pass to Stevie Johnson with 5 seconds left in the third quarter.

Jones scored on a 15-yard catch, Fred Jackson had 71 yards rushing

and a 3-yard touchdown catch, while Brad Smith scored on an 89-yard

kickoff return.

Smith’s score came during wild first-quarter stretch during

which the teams scored three touchdowns in 30 seconds.

It was the fastest three-score span since the Raiders and

Patriots scored three times in 26 seconds on Dec. 14, 2008,

according to STATS LLC.

In the end, the biggest TD that mattered was Hasselbeck’s pass

to Washington, which came with the Titans facing fourth-and-9.

Hasselbeck dropped a pass over the shoulder of Washington, who made

the catch in the end zone, a step ahead of defender Justin

Rogers.

”It’s a great feeling,” Hasselbeck said. ”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.”

NOTES: Titans RB Jamie Harper scored on a pair of 1-yard

plunges. … Bills PK Rian Lindell hit field goals from 31 and 42

yards. … Johnson’s 83-yard run was the fourth-longest of his

career, and the 10th that was 45 yards or longer, matching O.J.

Simpson for fourth on the NFL list.

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