Titans take advantage of mismatch to bust Johnson loose

NASHVILLE -- For 28 minutes and four seconds, the plan seemed to be working.

At the 2-minute warning of the first half, the Oakland Raiders had held Chris Johnson, the NFL's leading in rusher in 2009, to just 36 yards on 12 carries. They had stacked the box, closed cutback lanes and pursued with abandon. And it worked -- for exactly 28 minutes and four seconds.

But, in just one play, Johnson exploited a misalignment by the Raiders' defense, froze safety Tyvon Branch with a move seemingly sent from the heavens, and sprinted 76 yards to give his team a 24-3 lead and essentially end the competitive portion of a season-opening 38-13 Titans victory.

"There was no question I was getting frustrated," Johnson said of his early struggles. "But I knew if I kept running, eventually it was going to work out."

"Everybody was waiting on it," quarterback Vince Young said. "I was waiting on it, but you know that's what our coaches preach -- just take it a play at a time, three yards, five yards, and eventually (Johnson) is going to do what he does."

A breakdown of the play shows that the Titans had a decisive edge before the ball was even snapped. Tennessee lined up in their "11" personnel -- featuring three receivers and a tight end with Johnson in the backfield. The Raiders lined up in man-to-man coverage with two safeties deep, leaving them with just six men "in the box" against six Titans blockers and Johnson. It would be a mismatch Tennessee would quickly exploit.

"It was really a misalignment on the long run," Raiders coach Tom Cable said. "We're all in it together, and we just weren't good enough against the run."

At the snap, Young rolled right then gave to Johnson who went against the grain in a counter draw. Center Eugene Amano and tight end Bo Scaife got good blocking angles on the Raiders linebackers, while tackle Michael Roos kicked out the defensive end. This left Johnson with one man between him and the end zone, the kind of situation Johnson usually wins.

As safety Tyvon Branch rushed to fill the hole, Johnson cut inside and then out, leaving the flat-footed Raiders safety grasping for air. Johnson was then able to cut back away from the blocking traffic and explode down the sideline for his first touchdown of the season.

"In the beginning of the game (the Raiders defense) were talking a lot of trash," Johnson said. "After you bust that run and come back on the field, you don't hear any trash talk anymore."

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