BY DAN BEGNOCHE
The Buffalo Bills' last-ranked run defense took a step in the right direction last week against a banged-up Arizona Cardinals rushing attack. It'll need more than one of those forward steps to dig itself out of the cellar, however, a task made just a bit more ominous with Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson coming into town.
“He scares you,” Bills' coach Chan Gailey told reporters Wednesday. “Every time he touches the ball he scares you. You can still see that electric speed and electric quickness that he has. Yes, he has not had as many yards and the statistics are down, but I am telling you defensive coaches hold their breath every time he touches it.”
The Pro Bowl back has seen his carries and yardage decline ever since his ridiculous 2,000-yard season in 2009, and he has barely tallied 300 yards in the Titans' first six games. With an average of only 15 carries a game this year, Johnson has failed to punch one in for six and hasn't even had a 20-yard run.
If he was going to have a breakout game, however, now is the time. The Bills' porous run defense is giving up 5.8 yards a carry and has allowed nine rushing touchdowns in six games.
“Teams are running the ball a lot more on them,” Titans' coach Mike Munchak told the media Wednesday. “The 49ers game, the Jets game, they’ve had three games where it’s gotten lopsided on them, kind of what happened to us … We need to be able to run the ball consistently week in and week out no matter who we play.”
Johnson certainly made a splash on his trip into Buffalo last year, going for 153 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns while handing the Bills their fifth straight loss. Circumstances are quite different for Buffalo this year though, and getting a win against Tennessee before the bye week would put the team at 4-3, which seemed impossible considering how atrocious those three losses were.
“This is a big game for us,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick told reporters Wednesday. “To get to 4-3 before the bye, I think that is huge. To be here and also to have the other teams be 3-3 in the AFC East, everybody kind of knotted up — all of a sudden you start looking at it and we have 10 games left to go. We have a real shot at this thing.”
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