Anatomy of a Play: Titans run to win

Anatomy of a Play

Anatomy of a Play extras:
» Haynesworth in pass coverage?

In 2007, the Tennessee Titans featured an 1,100-yard back and a franchise quarterback who lacked a premier receiver.

So when the draft rolled around in the spring, no one expected Tennessee to draft another running back with their first round pick. But that's just what they did, taking East Carolina's Chris Johnson with the 24th overall selection.

The pick was bashed by pundits and prognosticators who pointed to the team's glaring need at wide receiver. "Chris Johnson? What the ...?!? Are they installing the old Oklahoma Wishbone?!?!"

But if you asked Titans coach Jeff Fisher or general manager Mike Reinfeldt, they would have pointed to their weaknesses at running back, not receiver. As good as the Titans' running game was last season, there was plenty of room for improvement.

In 2007, the Titans lacked big plays in the running game and LenDale White was carrying the ball too many times, making him less effective overall. Enter Johnson, the fastest runner in the draft, who has solved both problems. He is a threat to break a 20-plus yard run on any given play and he's taken much of the workload off of White.

The result is more big plays for the Titans, both from Johnson and White. White's yards per carry average has increased from 3.7 to 4.1 and he has already scored three more rushing touchdowns than all of last season.

This week's Anatomy of a Play features a three-play, 74-yard sequence from Tennessee's win over Green Bay, in which White and Johnson touched the ball on three consecutive plays. On the longest play of the series, White cut back on an outside zone run and burst through a gaping hole for a 54-yard gain. It was the second time in three games that White has broken a run for more than 50 yards -- something he didn't do once last season.

White took a break for his efforts and the Titans didn't miss a beat, as Johnson closed out the drive with a 17-yard reception and 3-yard touchdown run.

As it turns out, Fisher and Reinfeldt were right. Chris Johnson was exactly what the Titans needed.

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