CenturyLink Field: A Special Place for Chris Johnson?


Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) leaps over Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (54) at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Few folks remember the last time the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans did battle. Being in separate conferences means they don’t see each other very often.

The last time these two teams met, Matt Hasselbeck was the quarterback for the Seahawks. Jim Mora was coaching that team in his last game ever; it was the year before the hiring of current head coach Pete Carroll.

Perhaps more significant is the circumstances surrounding the Titans franchise. The year was 2009. You may recall the Titans starting off that season 0-6, the year after securing the number one overall seed in the AFC with a 13-3 record.

That season hit rock bottom after an atrocious Week 6 performance in which the Titans were decimated by the New England Patriots 59-0, after which then-head coach Jeff Fisher decided to make the quarterback switch to Vince Young.

A season full of despair retained a glimmer of hope. There was still a reason to keep watching the Titans, despite their struggles and virtually no hope of making the playoffs. Running back Chris Johnson was having a magical year.

Fast forward to week seventeen. Young had led the team to seven wins in nine games. A win in the last game of the season would mean achieving an even 8-8 record.

That final game was a road match-up with the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, the last time the two teams played. Chris Johnson entered the contest with 1,872 yards rushing. For those of you who, like me, are mathematically-challenged, don’t worry- I have my handy dandy calculator. Johnson needed 128 yards to break the 2,000-yard barrier.

Up to that point, Johnson was averaging 124.8 yards per game. The Seahawks were allowing just 109.5 yards per game heading into this contest. 128 yards would be hard to achieve with the numbers stacked against him the way they were.

But Jeff Fisher and the coaching staff were determined to help him out. They fed Johnson the ball 36 times. In a season that saw him break the single-season record for yards from scrimmage, including nine touchdowns of thirty yards or more, Johnson was unable to churn out a run longer than 12 yards against Seattle in week seventeen.

But with those 36 carries, Chris Johnson managed to make history, becoming just the sixth back in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season (Adrian Peterson expanded that list to seven with his 2,097 yard season in 2012).

It happened early in the fourth quarter. A few plays after having a 62-yard touchdown run called back for a holding penalty, Johnson needed just one more yard.

The second-year speedster took a handoff from Vince and ran right. He cut back inside and jumped over center Kevin Mawae for a four-yard gain to join the 2,000-yard club. On the next drive, he punched in the eventual game-winning touchdown from one yard out.

Obviously, circumstances have changed since Johnson had that spectacular season. The Seahawks, whose defense back then ranked 24th in the league, now sits strong at 9th. The Seahawks haven’t lost a home game since December 24th, 2011, 656 days since this writing.

Chris Johnson entered that meeting in 2009 averaging 5.8 yards per carry for the season. He enters this weekend’s game averaging a paltry 3.1 yards per attempt.

If the Titans stand any chance of beating the Seahawks on Sunday, it’s going to take, among many other perfect circumstances, a magical game from Johnson. A game reminiscent of his mystical 2,000-yard season. If it takes 36 carries, I say give him 36 carries. Johnson needs something to bust out of the funk that he and his offensive line are struggling through.

Maybe CenturyLink Field holds a special significance for Chris Johnson. Maybe he’ll bring a confidence and a swagger to this game, knowing that the last time he was here, he earned the nickname CJ2K.

Maybe, just maybe, the Titans can accomplish what they did in 2009 and pull off the seemingly impossible: a road victory at CenturyLink Field.

Do you think Chris Johnson can have a good game on Sunday? Let me know in the comments section and on Twitter @JGra_TitanSized

Also be sure to check out this week’s episode of Titan Sized Radio here.