Chris Johnson's streak of 100-yard rushing games came to an abrupt end, thanks in large part to the defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers, with an assist from an official's call as well.
The Steelers kept CJ bottled up in the 19-11 victory, holding him to just 34 yards on 16 rushing attempts. Just as he had in the opener against the Oakland Raiders, Johnson broke into the clear for a long touchdown run, but this time the 85-yard run was wiped out due to a holding call on center Eugene Amano.
“Basically, we executed a play that we've been working on in practice, and we had a good chance for it to break if everybody got on their blocks,” Johnson said. “When they took it away, it just took everything. It was like a dagger in our heart, … and from then on, everything just started going downhill.”
Indeed, the score was 10-3 at the time, and Tennessee had only turned the ball over twice. The Titans had five more giveaways left in them after that touchdown was called back.
James Farrior said Johnson told him he was going to break a long run, but the Steelers linebacker had a retort of his own.
“He said he wanted an 80-yard run. I told him I would let him get it, but we've got to get the win. I gave it to him, but it ain't my fault they were holding. So I kept my word,” Farrior said.
The Steelers' plan was simple. They were going to do their best to keep Johnson in check and gamble that the Titans offense could not beat them with the passing game. They guessed correctly.
“Our goal was to shut down the run,” defensive tackle Chris Hoke said. “We know he's an excellent runner. He's so fast and he's so good on his cutback. We wanted to make sure that … there were no cutback lanes. And there weren't any today.”
As for the Titans, seeing Johnson's 100-yard streak come to and end at 12 was tough to take. But the Titans knew what they were in for, as twice before CJ has faced Pittsburgh with similar results.
“Their defense has faced CJ three times, and all three times, they've held him under 100 yards,” fullback Ahmard Hall said. “We got the 100 yards today, but it got called back on the long run. We knew what we were in for today. We just didn't execute.”