NFL Nation: Mike Heimderdinger
|Kirby Lee/US Presswire|
|Tennessee running back Chris Johnson was a force for the Titans' offense Saturday before being knocked out with an ankle injury.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- One of the biggest differences between the 2008 Tennessee Titans and the 2007 version was that the dynamic playmaking abilities of Chris Johnson -- a home-run threat on nearly every snap.
He had a 32-yard run and a 28-yard catch before suffering an ankle injury in the second quarter that knocked him out of the Ravens' 13-10 divisional playoff win.
And suddenly, against a physical defense, the Titans were a lot less threatening.
They'd shown excellent depth all season -- with Chris Carr playing effectively at cornerback, beating Pittsburgh without Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch, even plugging in Leroy Harris at center Saturday for Kevin Mawae.
But without the Johnson dimension, they relied on the "Smash" of their "Smash and Dash" combo and LenDale White didn't offer the same sort of potential. His fumble just before the half cost Tennessee a chance to grab a 10-7 lead at intermission.
And while Justin Gage was spectacular with 10 catches for 135 yards, Johnson probably proved himself the player the Titans could least afford to lose.
"That hurt a lot," offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said of the loss of Johnson, who was in a poncho on the bench sipping something warm in the second half. "You saw CJ's explosiveness and there were some plays there that CJ probably would have done some pretty good things with. That hurt us a lot. But the bottom line is you can't fumble twice inside the 20 and miss a field goal against a team like that."
Does what happened to the Titans minus Johnson make the case for the Titans adding more dynamic playmakers to the offense?