Chris Johnson’s record-setting 2009 season lives on in the highlight reels. According to Mike Munchak, that’s where it’s likely to stay.
The Tennessee Titans coach said the blueprint for Johnson’s success was drawn with his 27-carry, 130-yard performance in Sunday’s 30-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers and that any repeat of the myriad long plays of two years ago is highly unlikely.
“What Chris did … was something no one else in the history of the league had ever done,” Munchak said Monday. “So there’s a reason it was never done in this league.
“People think, ‘Well he had so many runs over 20-some yards or whatever it was.’ No one else ever did that — ever — to the amount that he had. To think that’s going to happen every year for Chris Johnson … it’s not going to happen.”
On his way to a franchise-record 2,006 rushing yards, Johnson had 14 runs of 30 yards or more. All together, those accounted for 702 yards, or more than one-third of his total. He also had three receptions of 30 yards or more for a total of 176 yards — again, a little more than one-third of his total of 503 yards.
Those big plays were enough to make him the only player in NFL history with more than 2,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season. He also had three touchdown runs of 85 yards or more, something no other player had done in a career let alone a single season.
Take away those plays and he averaged 3.8 yards per carry on the other 344 attempts and 6.9 yards on his other 47 receptions. Those are not much different from his averages this season — 3.4 per rush, 7.1 per reception — when he has just one play of 30 yards or more (a 34-yard reception against Denver).
“We can’t get all caught up in the fact that he needs to get a 60 [yard run] for us to win,” Munchak said. “We need to get 130 to win. We’re happy with that. That’s enough to win a football game where you control the line of scrimmage.
“If he can bust a couple — great. Even when he was busting those big runs, we lost some games. So it doesn’t mean you’re going to win football games. I think it’s getting him productive and us being efficient on offense that’s the bottom line to winning.”
Against the Panthers he had 10 rushes for 26 yards through the first two quarters. His long gain was six yards.
On the first play of the second half, Johnson ran for nine yards. His fourth-quarter effort included runs of 16 and 25 yards, not to mention a 21-yard run by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
“We ran the ball well,” Munchak said. “To me, we build off that and say that’s our standard now and that’s what we’re capable of.”
Johnson proved — without a doubt — two years ago that he is capable of big plays.
Yet in so doing, the way Munchak sees it, he set a standard for personal performance that he is unlikely to match.
“There were some shots [Sunday] where if a guy misses or takes the wrong angle, [Johnson] could have had a couple 60-yard runs,” Munchak said. “But we didn’t. We had a couple 20- and 25-yard runs.
“If the big runs come, great. Just because he doesn’t have a big run doesn’t mean he’s not having a good season or not having a big day or something has changed in him. Sometimes things come. Defenses —give them credit for not allowing things to happen. It’s not just easy.
“That’s why you don’t see everyone in the league doing it. There’s a lot of great backs in this league, not just Chris. It’s hard to get home-run runs all the time.”