ORCHARD PARK - Tennessee Titans' running back Chris Johnson went into Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills still struggling to regain the form that helped him win the National Football League rushing title in 2009. He left Sunday's game at Ralph Wilson Stadium proving that he still has the ability to electrify the Titans' offense as he carried the ball 18 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns, including an 83-yarder in the first quarter, as the Titans won, 35-34.
"You're seeing his speed now," Titans' head coach Mike Munchak said. "Another 80-yarder. I think he has a record for 80 yard runs in the league. Throughout the game, he had a lot of nice 8-10 yard gains; had a 25-yarder. I think we picked up where we left off in Pittsburgh, and kind of what we did in Houston."
Johnson's speed was certainly on display on the 83-yard score that put the Titans up 14-7 with 2:37 left in the first quarter, but as Munchak explained, it was his ability to rip off 8- and 10-yard runs that did in the Bills' porous defense.
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) runs for a touchdown against Buffalo Bills’ Stephon Gilmore (27) during the first half of an NFL game in Orchard Park, Sunday.
"I don't think I've ever had a bad game versus them," Johnson said. "But it seems like my offensive line, they come through when we come down here or whatever. They did a great job of getting on the linemen and getting to the second level of the linebackers and my fullback did a great job of blocking all game."
The Bills' defensive lineman didn't get a great look at Johnson Sunday afternoon, as he shot past them seemingly at will, leaving the job of containing him to the secondary.
"It was just guys not being where they were supposed to be and you saw that," Bills' safety George Wilson said of the defense's ability to stop the run. "I do not know how long that run was, but you saw the long run as a result. You cannot be inconsistent in your run fits and in your tackling when you are expected to be a good defense."
Wilson summed it up perfectly. The Bills were supposed to be revamped on defense this season. It was supposed to be what was going to lead them to their first playoff appearance since the Music City Miracle. Like Mario Williams, who was was largely absent, again, Sunday afternoon, things just haven't worked out like they were supposed to.
"We are just inconsistent," Wilson said. "We cannot give up big plays in the run or pass (game). We cannot continue to do that and expect different results."
Players, coaches and fans alike are getting tired of talking about the same problems the Bills' defense has week in and week out, and they all agree something has to give, and give soon, if the Bills are going to make any type of run toward the playoffs.
"We are definitely tired tired of not playing to our capabilities," Bills' linebacker Nick Barnett said. "There is nothing wrong with this defense. As far as the schematics of the defense, it is one of the best schemes you could have in the NFL, for me personally. We just did not execute and that is the problem."
Defensive end Chris Kelsay echoed Barnett's sentiments, noting that it's not only frustrating, but embarrassing as well.
"We have to watch the film and we have to come up with answers," Kelsay said. "We get a week off, which is unfortunate in and of its self because we really are not banged up. We just have to sit with this in our mouth for an extra week. We had a good setup being 3-3 and the AFC East was still wide open. We really put ourselves in a bind."
On the day, the Bills allowed 197 yards on 27 carries, while allowing another 205 through the air to Matt Hasselbeck, who finished with a touchdown and a 93.6 rating.
As bad as the Bills' defense was, the offense was just as good, matching the Titans blow for blow, helping Buffalo to a six-point lead at 34-28 heading into the final quarter. But Fitzpatrick, who lost a fumble early in the second half, threw an interception to Jason McCourty at the Titans' 48-yard line with 2:57 left in regulation.
"I just got greedy in a situation that I did not have any business being greedy in," Fitzpatcik said. "It was a dumb throw, dumb decision by me."
The turnover set Tennessee up with what was the eventual game-winning touchdown, a 15-yard pass from Hasselbeck to Nate Washington on 4th-and-9 with under 1:30 to go in the game.
"I had an opportunity to get an interception and I did not come up with the ball, which would have sealed the victory," Wilson said, lamenting the prior third-down play. "It would not have allowed them a fourth down. It would not have put our offense back on the field in a position of having to get points for us to win the game. Those are the plays we need to make in order to be a good football team. I did not make that play and I personally feel like it is on me."
The loss is not just on Wilson, it is on the entire team, from the coaching staff on down. What the Bills have now is a situation not many people thought they would be in at the beginning of the year when they came in the talk of the town. Their job now, over the next two weeks, is to find some way to stop the hemorrhaging on defense and a way to keep from late-game turnovers that nearly helped them lose a game against the Cardinals last week and did help them lose a game Sunday.
"We know that we have potential," Kelsay said. "I hate talking about potential. We have to do it. I wish that we could play up to the expectations that everybody has for us. We just are not right now.
"We had more confidence in ourselves than anybody outside the place," Kelsay continued. "We feel like we brought in the guys to really solidify our defense, both run and pass. We got Kyle (Williams) back. I do not know. I wish I could put my finger on it. I do not think anybody in this locker room can."