When Texans quarterback Matt Schaub suffered a serious foot injury, it appeared to give life to the Titans: Tennessee is second to Houston in the AFC South, and if the Texans are going to falter without their star quarterback, the Titans could capitalize.
But the problem is that for that scenario to play out, the Titans will have to win some games of their own. And their own star offensive player isn’t giving them any help on that front.
Running back Chris Johnson turned in another stinker of a game for the Titans at Atlanta, with 12 carries for 13 yards, and the Falcons earned a 23-17 win. The loss drops the Titans to 5-5, two games behind the Texans.
Let’s not mince words here: Johnson is horrible. We’re now 10 games into the season, and we’ve seen enough to say that it’s not just that Johnson is off to a slow start because of the lockout and his contract holdout. Johnson entered today’s game averaging 3.4 yards a carry, which ranked him dead last among the 34 NFL players with at least 80 rushing attempts this season. Now his average is down to 3.2 yards a carry.
The good news for the Titans was that after rookie quarterback Jake Locker came in for an injured Matt Hasselbeck, the offense started moving. Locker completed nine of 19 passes for 140 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
But the bad news is that the Titans were already in a 23-3 hole when Locker got on the field, and the biggest reason they had only scored three points was that Johnson couldn’t do anything. With even competent play from their running back, the Titans might have won this game.
The Titans didn’t get competent play, however, and so the Falcons get the win and remain in good shape in both the NFC South race and the NFC wild card race. The same can’t be said for the Titans. No matter how much the loss of Schaub hurts the Texans, Tennessee just isn’t going to catch Houston. Certainly not if they keep getting 12-carry, 13-yard games from Johnson.