Running back Chris Johnson carried an American flag onto the playing field then carried Terrell Owens jersey home with him after starring in the Tennessee Titans’ 41-17 trouncing of the Buffalo Bills Sunday at LP Field.
Johnson carried the flag onto the field to commemorate Veteran’s Day, and then wound up with Owens’ No. 81 jersey after the game after an exchange of Tweets between the two with Owens saying to Johnson, “if u beat us, i'll give it 2 u but i'm lettin u now, u may wanna go ahead & order it online!! or on my website! Lol!”
In between, Johnson carried the load for the Titans, running 26 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns and caught all nine passes thrown his way by Vince Young for another 100 yards in helping the Titans to their third straight victory since a disastrous 0-6 start.
“On Twitter, I asked T.O. for his jersey. He said they were going to come in here and beat us, and I said, they weren’t going to do that, but he let me get the jersey,” Johnson said. “I didn’t see him after the game, but he sent it over. So a shout out to T.O. I have to tell. T.O. thanks for that.”
Johnson’s shout out might have been to Owens, but for the rest who participated and watched Sunday’s games, all the accolades belonged to Johnson, who maintained his NFL rushing lead and has 1,091 yards for the year. That's the highest total through nine games since Seattle's Shaun Alexander had 1,114 in 2005.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t up for MVP of the league at the end of the year, the MVP of the whole league. Not just the best running back, but the best player, period,” tight end Bo Scaife said of his teammate.
Johnson was the star of the show again for the Titans, but also had plenty of help.
Quarterback Vince Young was 17 of 25 for a season-high 210 yards with a TD and an interception and added another 29 yards rushing on five carries. And an opportunistic defense helped Tennessee put the game away with a franchise record-tying 24-point fourth quarter to polish off the Bills.
In that fourth quarter, the Titans regained the lead on Johnson’s second touchdown of the game, a 1-yard bounce out in which he ricocheted off Bills defenders Bryan Scott and Paul Posluszny going to the outside for a touchdown.
After Rob Bironas’ 51-yard field goal made the score 27-17 with 3:21 to play, the resurgent secondary made contributions to finish the game off.
First, Vincent Fuller stepped in front of Trent Edwards pass that was intended for Josh Reed and carried back 26 yards for a touchdown with 2:54 to play.
“It’s something that we picked up during the week in two-minute and a lot of third-down situations,” Fuller said. “The Buffalo Bills like running certain routes and you work hard all week to get an opportunity to make plays like that. I was just fortunate that the stars aligned, and I was able to capitalize on my opportunity.”
Two drives later, another opportunity came. This time, a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass went right through the hands of Owens and into the awaiting arms of Rod Hood, who had his third interception in as many games, and his first touchdown as a Titan. Hood scored from 31 yards away with 53 seconds left, icing the victory for the suddenly resurgent Titans.
“It just kind of split his hands. I saw it and I was just trying to make a tackle, but then it came on me so fast, I just put my hands up,” Hood said. “I knew when I got to the sideline. If I catch one on the sideline, I knew it was pretty much a touchdown.”
The Bills took an early lead, dipping into their bag of tricks with the Wildcat formation, as running back Fred Jackson took the direct snap, then fake a run and threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Lee Evans.
“We hadn’t seen the Wildcat formation from them, and better yet a pass,” Fuller said. “They ran a play similar to it before, and came back with more of a Tim Tebow pass, fake the run and then threw it over our head. Credit them.”
Quickly, however, the credit then went back to Johnson and the Titans offense, as he and Young drove 80 yards in nine plays, with Johnson going into the end zone from 28 yards out for the tying touchdown.
The Titans pushed that lead to 14-7 on Young’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington and then to 17-7 on a Bironas 38-yard field goal, before the Bills closed to within 17-14 on Edwards’ touchdown toss to Evans of eight yards in the second quarter and tied it on Rian Lindell’s 25-yard field goal in the third quarter.
At 17-17, entering the fourth quarter, the game hung in the balance, but the suddenly resurgent Titans took control of the game, with big plays from Johnson on the offense and the secondary on defense.
“There’s no such thing as being invincible, but the feeling that we knew we can beat and play with anyone in this league has definitely returned,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “Right now, we’re just in a situation where we just have to play the rest of our games, and if we win them all, maybe something good will happen for us. But we’re just trying to stand in anyone’s way that’s trying to go to the postseason. It’ll make it fun for us.”
Enough fun that in the fourth quarter, 86-year-old owner Bud Adams could be seen dancing from his luxury suite.
And fun as long as Johnson continues his heroics.
“It’s a testament to what we do. Put eight in the box, but we’re just going to continue to do what we do,” fullback Ahmard Hall said. “I think he’s probably the best back in the league, because he can do so much. His speed and athleticism are unmatched. In this league, there are some good backs, but they don’t have the speed and athleticism that C.J. has.”