Titans’ RB Chris Johnson joins 2,000-yard club
SEATTLE – Chris Johnson says he wants to be football’s next megastar, the Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant of his sport.
His here and now isn’t exactly pedestrian.
Johnson became the sixth player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season in the fourth quarter of Tennessee’s season finale Sunday at Seattle. He also scored both touchdowns in the Titans’ 17-13 win over the Seahawks.
In the second quarter, Johnson set the NFL record for yards from scrimmage in a season on a 9-yard pass from Vince Young. That broke Marshall Faulk’s 1999 record of 2,429 yards from scrimmage.
Later in the opening half, he passed Earl Campbell’s franchise record of 1,934 yards rushing set in 1980. He finished the season with 2,006 yards rushing, 2,509 yards from scrimmage – and the desire to be the next big thing.
“Yes, very much. That’s what every guy wants to be who plays any sport: They want to be the next Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant or whoever you want to name,” said Johnson, wearing a glittering jewel cross over a shirt, tie and vest in purple and gray.
His show of flair off the field was finished off by purple high-top sneakers.
On the field, Johnson’s relentless running finished off the Seahawks and the milestones.
He gained 134 yards on 36 carries, three short of Earl Campbell’s franchise record set in 1981 against Seattle. It was his 11th consecutive 100-yard game, the second-longest streak in league history.
Four plays after a holding penalty negated a 62-yard touchdown run that would have given Johnson a chance in the final quarter at what he really wanted – Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105 yards rushing set in 1984 – the second-year back ran right, cut back inside and jumped over center Kevin Mawae for a 4-yard gain.
Game officials tossed the ball to the Titans’ sideline as Johnson joined Dickerson, Jamal Lewis, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis and O.J. Simpson in the 2,000-yard club. But that was about all for any immediate commemoration.
Part of that was because Johnson wasn’t exactly sure he’d gotten his 2K. And Seattle’s Colin Cole was being helped off by trainers with an injury, further muting the moment.
“I knew when we got the long run that I was over 2,000,” the 24th pick in the 2008 draft from East Carolina said of the penalty. “But I think it was on the next series. I can’t remember which play it was.”
Dickerson’s record is next on his to-do list. The holding penalty on fullback Ahmard Hall negated the day’s only breakout run by Johnson and any chance to catch Dickerson this season.
“We still got 2,000, but that big run that got called back, that hurt us a lot,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of a disappointment, but it’s only my second year, so I’m sure I’ll have another opportunity of doing that.”
Tennessee’s linemen raised their arms skyward behind the play and Johnson was set to break into a celebration dance in the back of the end zone – before they all realized referee Ed Hochuli had thrown a penalty flag near the line of scrimmage.
Had Hochuli not called what he later termed a blatant holding on Hall’s lead block against linebacker David Hawthorne, Johnson would have had 182 of the 234 yards he needed to break Dickerson’s record.
Asked whether he thought he was held, Hawthorne said: “A little bit. But, I mean, that’s the nature of the business.”
Johnson simply put his hands on his hips and jogged to the sideline for a two-play breather, resigned to settling for the 2,000-yard plateau.
“It means a lot for me to get to 2,000 yards – only the sixth player ever to do it – and especially that we got the win today,” he said. “I’m not really tired, just happy.”
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