So how much did 25 carries for 141 yards mean to a guy who had a 1.4-yard average per carry at kickoff?
Well considering just how terrible he’d been through three games, it’s hard for the Titans not to be encouraged.
But, frankly, while his words were sufficiently measured at the post-game podium, I thought his tone and demeanor were a notch happier than you like from a productive player coming out of a loss.
“It was a pretty good game running the ball,” he said. “I feel like my offensive line went out there and did a great job from the first snap of just getting up on guys, pushing those guys back, recreating the line of scrimmage and just giving me somewhere to run. Like I’ve said all year, I’m going to be as good as my offensive line. So they had a great, great game today and I feel like that’s why the running game did well.”
“...I think today helped us take a step. I wouldn’t say we ultimately solved the problem, but I feel like we took a good step and hopefully we continue to get better.”
Houston strongside linebacker Brooks Reed said the Texans allowed Johnson to do too much. But he also said not all the yards had the same meaning.
Of Johnson’s work, nine carries for 60 yards came after the Texans were up three touchdowns or more. So while the Texans were most concerned with defending him, he had 16 carries for 81 yards.
“A little bit was inflated, towards the end of the game we had all our special teams guys in there on defense,” he said. “We had a little trouble at the beginning of the game. They schemed us a little bit. We adjusted. That’s going to happen.”
I saw some moments when Johnson could have had more but declined to take it.
Early in the third quarter, he had a nice little 5-yard run where he seemed to smartly take what was available. On the very next play he could have had 2 or 3 more, but instead went east instead of north for no gain.
Late in the game, against backups, he took a carry left and looked to have room. But rather than gaining the edge and zipping around the corner as he has in the past, he showed and continued to move laterally.
Overall it was way, way better for sure. But Johnson and Tennessee’s run game are hardly all the way back.