There was a time when Chris Johnson and Andre Johnson were leading the discussion for the best players at their positions. That hasn't been the case this season with Chris Johnson struggling to get anything going on the ground and Andre Johnson negatively impacted by Houston's quarterback issues. On Sunday, however, both proved they were still as dynamic as ever.
Chris Johnson had his best game since Week 7 of last season, rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns against St. Louis. Johnson entered the game averaging just 3.2 yards per carry on the season. His 6.5 YPC performance against the Rams was good enough to increase his season average to 3.7 YPC. Even more encouraging for Johnson and the Titans was the way he gained his yards. Always capable of the breakaway run, Johnson's 150 yards weren't inflated by one long run. Instead, he consistently gashed the Rams for solid gains. He gained at least 8 yards on eight of his 23 carries, including four runs of 15 or more yards.
If the performance is a sign of things to come, it could have a major impact on the Titans' season and Johnson's future in Tennessee. The Titans are in the thick of the AFC playoff race and with the hardest stretch of schedule behind them, they could make a run over the second half of the season. Tennessee's defense appears to be playoff caliber and if Johnson can spearhead an offensive surge, the Titans could be the favorite to lock up the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
A resurgence could also ensure Johnson stays in Tennessee at least another season. With him struggling to top 3.0 YPC in many games this season, his future with the Titans came into question. Johnson signed a lucrative extension in 2011 and will have the second-highest salary cap number among running backs next season, according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports. The Titans could save $4 million by releasing Johnson next season, but may instead keep the 28-year-old running back around if he continues to show flashes like he did on Sunday.
Andre Johnson was having a fine season prior to Sunday's breakout performance, but it wasn't a typical Andre Johnson season. Playing with three different starting quarterbacks, Johnson hadn't topped the 100-yard mark since Week 4. While Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and others were stealing the headlines, Johnson was somewhat of a forgotten man in Houston. That isn't the case any longer with Johnson showing that even at 32, he is still one of the most explosive wide receivers in the NFL.
Johnson got rolling right out of the gate, getting behind the defense on the third play of the game for a 62-yard touchdown. The touchdown was his first of the season and just his second in the last 13 regular season games. He didn't have to wait long for another, however, hauling in a 41-yard touchdown later in the first quarter. He capped off the first half with a third touchdown reception, giving him seven catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the half.
He caught two more passes in the second half, finishing with nine receptions for 229 yards and three touchdowns, the second-highest single-game receiving total of his career. Unfortunately for Johnson and the Texans, Houston lost, 27-24. At 2-6, the Texans are likely out of the playoff picture, barring an eight-game winning streak to close the season, but that doesn't mean they are irrelevant.
Five of the Texans' remaining eight games come against teams in the playoff race. Johnson's performance could mark a shift in Houston's offensive philosophy. The Texans' offense has centered around the running game and the short play-action passing game in recent seasons. With Johnson proving he still has the ability to burn teams deep and new starting quarterback Case Keenum not afraid to take the lid off the offense, the Texans may rack up yards over the second half.
Houston's defense has shown flashes of being a top defense. If the Texans can put together complete games, combined with the now-potent passing attack, Houston could alter the playoff landscape with upset wins. Even if the Texans can't pull off an upset or two, Johnson could further cement his place in NFL history. He's now on pace to catch 114 passes for a career-high 1,626 yards. That would give Johnson 12,880 career receiving yards, moving him into the top 15 all-time.
If may not be 2009, but for one week Andre Johnson and Chris Johnson both played like it.