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Chris Johnson lets his shoes do the talking

11:03 AM, Dec 18, 2012   |    comments
Chris Johnson
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By David Climer, The Tennessean

Must be the shoes.

In a game that was hard on the eyes, Chris Johnson's 94-yard touchdown sprint was a welcome point of light on Monday night.

CJ's footwear was a major part of the story. In a timely tribute to the victims in the shooting rampage at a Connecticut school last week, Johnson wrote the names of the 20 children who perished on his white Nikes.

The NFL fashion police normally flag such things. Often, a player will wear some personalized item during warmups and be informed by a league observer that it must be removed prior to kickoff. That's NFL business as usual.

But these are not usual times. When 20 kids are murdered by a madman at a school, something is horribly wrong. And for once, the powers that be at NFL headquarters took the high road. They allowed Johnson to wear the shoes during the Titans-Jets game.

If nothing else, it was a reminder that football - even Monday Night Football - is just a game. Considering what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it was time for a little perspective.

Credit Johnson for providing it. And thanks to NFL headquarters for playing along.

Johnson said his gesture was "just something to try to give back and show tribute to those families and how much they hurt."

"It just shows you how fortunate it is for us to come out here and play on Sunday and Monday," said Johnson, who added he was "thinking about those kids all week."

The shoes got plenty of TV airtime, thanks to his run.

After a Robert Malone punt pinned the Titans at their 5-yard line early in the second quarter, Johnson carried for 1 yard on first down. Then, on second-and-9, CJ worked his magic.

He took a simple handoff and angled to his right. Backup center Kyle DeVan, who had replaced the injured Kevin Matthews in the first quarter, and right guard Deuce Lutui cleared a path.

With linebackers late to fill the hole, Johnson was into the secondary in no time flat. And while he may not have the 4.24-second speed in the 40 that he displayed at the 2008 NFL Combine, Johnson is still one fast customer.

"Once I jumped through the line, I saw nothing but daylight," he said.

Jets safety Yeremiah Bell made a run at him but didn't have the needed closing speed. Johnson never looked back.

It was a blast from the past. Although Johnson already had posted his fifth straight 1,000-yard season, he has been unable to break long runs like he once did. He still gets nice chunks of yardage here and there but seldom hits the home run.

This was more like a grand slam.

Runs like that make it more likely the Titans will keep Johnson around for a sixth season. He is set to collect a $9 million bonus if he is on the roster on the fifth day of the league year, which begins soon after the Super Bowl. It's a steep price, but the Titans have money to spend.

CJ's run - the longest in Oilers/Titans franchise history - was one of the few noteworthy offensive plays in an otherwise dull game. On this night, the Titans won despite themselves. They were bad. But the Jets were worse.

After three straight losses and five in six games, the Titans needed all the help they could get. They got it from Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, who threw four interceptions and fumbled a shotgun snap with 43 seconds left, effectively ending the game.

"It got sloppy along the way, but the bottom line is we hung in there," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "... It's good to win again."

The loss eliminated the Jets from playoff contention. The question: How could the Jets have been in the playoff hunt to begin with? This is one bad team.

As for the Titans, they were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week, although they've been realistically out of the chase for a month.

As we saw on Monday night, they continue to try to make the best of a bad situation.

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