The arrival of Randy Moss was supposed to be the magic elixir that opened up the Tennessee Titans running game for Chris Johnson.
After all, it was Johnson who openly pined for Moss when New England traded him to Minnesota, and got his wish when the Vikings dumped the receiver on the waiver wire four weeks later.
But since Moss' arrival, through no real fault of his own, the Titans' offense – instead of taking off – has ground to a halt.
The plan was supposed to work like this: Moss' presence would make opposing teams play the Titans more honest with seven-man fronts. And if teams insisted on bringing extra defenders in, the Titans would make them pay by chucking the ball deep to Moss.
For the first couple of games, Johnson did run well, gaining 117 and 130 yards against Miami and Washington, respectively. But the past two games, Johnson had just five yards on seven carries against Houston and 53 yards on 13 attempts vs. Jacksonville.
And it isn't as though the Titans have made Moss a focal point of the offense either of late. He has just five catches for 62 yards and has not had more than four passes thrown in his direction in any game thus far.
So why hasn't it worked?
Coach Jeff Fisher was obviously frustrated by the subject.
“If I knew, I would have fixed it. We're not converting third downs and we're not getting off the field on third downs,” he said.
For his part, Moss said he has been wanting to make some plays since arriving in Nashville.
“I didn't really know what my key involvement or my role was going to be when I got here. I really just wanted to come out and make some plays. The last couple weeks since I've been here nothing's happened,” Moss said.
For his part, Johnson said it has worked, but for whatever reason, the Titans have not run the ball enough the past two weeks.
“It has (worked). In the first two games, it opened rushing lanes and you see guys are not playing us eight and nine in the box every play anymore,” Johnson said. “When you don't run the ball, it's not gonna to anything. The last two games, it's not what the defense did, it's what the offense did.”
Other Titans players say Moss' presence on the field has caused teams to back off, but that the Titans simply haven't capitalized on the situation.
“You're seeing seven-man boxes, and when we're throwing the ball, guys are not making the catches,” fullback Ahmard Hall said. “And when do have the seven-man box, guys are not continuing their blocks and finishing their blocks. Guys are coming off to make tackles. We're getting everything we want. We're the problem.
“In our last game against the Jaguars, we should have torn them up for 150 or 200 yards, but we didn't do that. Guys are letting guys come off their blocks, and if guys want to stack the box, we're throwing passes down the field and guys are dropping passes. It's all us. We don't have anything to blame on anybody but ourselves.”
That was a common answer when the question of why the Moss/CJ combination hasn't worked as planned.
“We've certainly had our opportunities. I had the opportunity to hit Randy on a long pass and didn't throw a very good ball. We've had some other opportunities in other games. It's unfortunate,” Collins said. “We're so close. You look at the film, and there's so many things we could have done, only with Randy, but with other guys, too. That's the frustrating part of it. There are a lot of frustrating things right now, and not getting Randy more involved is part of it.”