More to Prove: Chris Johnson or Patriots Defense?

The New England Patriots have been to the Super Bowl twice in the last five years and lost both times. Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson broke the NFL single-season record for yards from scrimmage in 2009 and the 6th RB to gain 2,000 yards rushing in a single-season. Johnson has guaranteed a duplication of that production and has failed for two straight seasons to deliver.

Last year was the worst statistical for Johnson since entering the league 4 years ago. It was also the worst season statistically for the New England Patriots defense since their record breaking 2007 season five years ago.

Johnson has publicly stated that he will rebound this year. The Patriots don’t talk much but have attempted to bolster their defensive unit with the linebacker out of Alabama, Dont’a Hightower and the defensive end from Syracuse, Chandler Jones who some are calling the next Jason Pierre-Paul.

The New England Patriots travel to Tennessee to face the Titans this weekend. Who has the most to prove? Is it the New England Patriots defense that have lost 2 Super Bowls to the same team in 5 years? OR is it Chris Johnson, who went from looking like the best running back in the league a few years ago, to looking like he had taken a quantum leap backwards into the realm of mediocrity?

New England has been slowly regressing on defense on a year to year basis since 2007. Here’s a break down of stats to show their regression (next to the stat total is the league ranking in parentheses):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pats head coach Bill Belichik has a rich defensive background, so one can imagine he is not too pleased with this lapse in efficiency from his defense. But with such a high-powered offense boasting one of the best quarterbacks, wide receivers and two of the best tight ends in the leagues, why does this defense need to prove anything?

One could make the argument that the Pats D is the reason for their last 2 Super Bowl losses.

In the 2007 Super Bowl the Giants advanced the ball 83 yards on their final drive with 2:39 remaining in the game. The famous David Tyree catch was capped off by Plaxico Burress’ game winning touchdown catch with 35 seconds remaining. In my opinion the Patriots would have won this game, without a doubt, if it were not for CB Ellis Hobbs. Maybe it was the injuries he was dealing with, maybe it was the fact that he is 5’9 and tried to cover Burress who is 6’5. Anyways…

In Super Bowl XLVI, the 2007 Super Bowl rematch, the game went almost the same way. The game went back and forth until the fourth quarter when the Pats D let the G-Men have the game. Eli Manning drove the Giants 88 yards down the field and RB Ahmad Bradshaw put the nail in the coffin with a 6-yard game-winning touchdown run with 57 seconds left. Manning completed 30 out of 40 passes for 75%.

Belichik, who has his 1990 Super Bowl winning defensive game plan for the New York Giants perched behind glass in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, must be disgusted with his defense as of late.

What must be taken into account is a technicality that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet or the box score. Tom Brady puts up points real fast and teams often have to put the running game aside and play catch-up with their passing game when facing the Pats. This should be considered when viewing the stat box above.

But what about CJ2K? Could he really have a chip on his shoulder bigger than that of the Pats D?

Well, as I previously stated, Johnson one of 6 players EVER to rush for 2,000 yards in the entire history of the NFL. No player on earth that has ever played professional football has ever gained more yards from scrimmage as Chris Johnson did in 2009. Smart or stupid, Johnson stepped forward and started making promises to return to the 2,000 yard mark and even best his own record. Here is how he did the last two seasons following his breakout 2009 performance:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CJ2K had a pretty decent follow-up season after 2009, but last year was a tragedy by his standards. It was worse than his rookie season in which he split carries with LenDale White. He only scored 4 total touchdowns in 2012 and barely reached the 1,000 yard rushing mark.

Because of the high standard he set for himself, has Johnson made an acceptable performance nearly impossible to achieve? It is possible, but what is clear is that he has to do better than last season if he even wants to be back in the discussion among top 5 running backs.

Side notes:

Patriots head coach was born in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 2009, Chris Johnson ran for 178 yards on 17 attempts (7.5 average) in his only match-up against the Patriots. New England won 59-0.

 

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Topics: Bill Belichick, Chris Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, Tennesse Titans

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