CJ Has Titans Run Game Rolling in Beating Bills

The Titans ground game is sprouting legs now that Johnson has shown more signs that he’s re-emerged from what had been a two-month slumber.

CJ rushed for 153 yards and scored twice in securing a 23-17 win over the slumping Buffalo Bills on Sunday. It’s the third time in four games Johnson’s had at least 100 yards, and it’s no coincidence that the Titans have won all three times to climb into a logjam of five teams with 7-5 records.

“At the beginning of the season, the passing game carried us, and now it’s time for the running game to step it up,” said Johnson, who has 486 of his 852 yards rushing in his past four games. “The offensive line and everything is hitting on all cylinders right now, and hopefully we can continue to keep this momentum going.”

Johnson doubled his season touchdown total by scoring from 48 and 4 yards on consecutive possessions in getting the Titans out to a 17-7 lead.

Rob Bironas hit three field goals, including a 44-yarder to make it 23-10 with nine minutes left. Hasselbeck was efficient, going 16 of 25 for 140 yards passing. And the Titans defense generated two turnovers, and forced Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw three straight incompletions to end the Bills last drive in the final minute.

The praise was left to Johnson, who’s electric running style is sparking the Titans’ confidence.

“That’s the CJ that I know,” cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “If there is a time you want someone to peak, it’s now. … It’s going to be scary when he starts having some 250-yard games. I can’t wait for that.”

The Bills (5-7) have very little left to look forward to but playing games for pride, in the midst of a five-game skid that has all but mathematically knocked them out of the hunt. A month after Buffalo was battling New England and the Jets for top spot in the AFC East, the team’s now in attempting to hold off Miami (4-8) for last place in the division.

“It’s disappointing. I’ve never lost five in a row,” linebacker Nick Barnett said. “This is new territory for me and I’m sure for a lot of guys. It doesn’t feel good. They don’t like it and I don’t like it.”

C.J. Spiller rushed for a career-best 83 yards and scored on a 35-yard scamper in which he recovered his own fumble just before sliding out of the end zone. Stevie Johnson made the game close, scoring on a 2-yard touchdown catch with 2:58 remaining.

At least Johnson, this time, kept his TD celebration in check, a week after being criticized, flagged 15 yards and fined by the NFL $10,000 for a questionable display in a 28-24 loss to the New York Jets.

“Last week was last week,” said Johnson, who had five catches for 52 yards. “We moved on to the Titans and we tried to get this W and we came up short.”

Two turnovers — fumbles by Fitzpatrick and tight end Scott Chandlers — led directly to the Titans scoring 10 points.

Though the Bills’ defense limited Tennessee to converting two of 11 third-down chances, Buffalo couldn’t contain the Titans’ running attack in allowing a season-worst 187 yards.

The Titans prepare for their next big test in hosting Drew Brees and the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints next week.

“We’ve got some extra studying to do,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “I might not do another interview this week, because I’ll be watching film.”

They’ll at least have some confidence and momentum going into that game in having strung together two straight wins for the first time since a 3-1 start.

“A lot of these guys are growing confidence that wasn’t there from the beginning,” receiver Nate Washington said. “We are starting to realize we have a good chance at being a great football team here — not just good, but great.”

Notes: Johnson’s 48-yard TD run was his longest since scoring a 76-yard touchdown in the 2010 season opener. … Fitzpatrick’s TD pass gave him 20 this season, becoming the first Bills player to throw that many in consecutive years since Jim Kelly did it in 1994-95. … Washington did not finish the game to rest a sore left ankle. Starting CB Jason McCourty’s status is uncertain after he sustained a concussion in the first quarter. … The Bills honored Allen Wilson, longtime beat writer for The Buffalo News, who died Saturday of leukemia. Flowers and a framed picture of “Big Al” were placed at his seat in the press box. Bills safety and captain George Wilson spoke for the players in issuing his condolences, calling the writer a “good man” and “genuine guy.”

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Johnson Leads Titans to 23-17 Win Over Bills

Johnson rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Titans to a 23-17 win over the slumping Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Held to under 100 yards seven times in his first eight games, Johnson now has topped the century mark three times in his last four outings.

He scored on runs of 48 and 4 yards to match his season touchdown total. Kicker Rob Bironas did the rest, hitting three field goals, including a 44-yarder midway through the fourth quarter to put the Titans ahead 23-10.

The Bills (5-7) have lost five straight and are suddenly in jeopardy of going from first in the AFC East to a battle with Miami for last place in the division.

C.J. Spiller had a career-best 83 yards rushing and scored on a 35-yard touchdown run in his second start since Fred Jackson broke a bone in his leg. Receiver Stevie Johnson toned down his touchdown celebration after scoring on a 2-yard catch with 2:58 left to make the game close.

Johnson had been criticized for much of the past week over his celebration in a 28-24 loss to the New York Jets. Johnson was fined $10,000 by the NFL for mocking Jets receiver Plaxico Burress, pretending to shoot himself in the thigh. He was also flagged 15 yards for going to the ground in pretending to be a crashing plane.

This time, Johnson kept his arms to himself and politely handed the ball to the nearest official.

The Titans (7-5) converted two Bills turnovers into 10 points.

Rookie linebacker Colin McCarthy stripped Ryan Fitzpatrick on a fourth-and-3 scramble and recovered it at the Titans 43-yard line. Six plays later, Chris Johnson scored on a 4-yard scamper up the middle to put Tennessee up 17-7.

McCarthy also recovered tight end Scott Chandler’s fumble at the Titans 37 to end the Bills’ first possession of the second half. That set up a time-consuming 11-play, 64-yard drive capped by Bironas hitting a 27-yard field goal to give Tennessee a 20-10 lead.

Johnson had 190 yards rushing in a 23-17 win over Tampa Bay last weekend. Three weeks earlier, he had 130 yards in a 30-3 victory at Carolina.

Johnson rushed for 106 yards in the first half alone Sunday, more than his output in all but two other games this season. His best run came on the 48-yard touchdown, when he found a crease off right tackle, raced up the right sideline and outran defenders Aaron Williams and Da’Norris Searcy to the end zone.

The Bills ran out of time to manufacture a comeback. Getting the ball back at their own 15-yard line with 62 seconds left, their final drive ended with Fitzpatrick throwing three straight incompletions from his 46.

Fitzpatrick finished 29 of 46 for 288 yards.

The back-and-forth first half featured some electrifying and bizarre plays.

Spiller gave the Bills a 7-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter when he beat the Titans to the left corner and cut it up the sideline. He was chased down from behind by Michael Griffin, who punched the ball loose inside the 10-yard line. The ball ricocheted off Spiller’s left knee and was bouncing out of the end zone when the running back made a diving attempt to secure it before sliding out.

Officials initially ruled it a touchback, before reversing the call to a touchdown after replays showed Spiller had control of the ball while inbounds.

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