However, Johnson's got a bigger challenge this week -- the days of "four-lane highway" rushing lanes and missed tackles might be over in the short term. The Titans face the San Francisco 49ers today, and this is a defense primed to stop the big play on the ground. They've only allowed three rushes of 20 yards or more, and no back has gone for 40 or more on them this season. San Francisco has speed on the perimeter and the ability to clamp down on speed backs. According to Football Outsiders, the Niners rank fourth in yards per carry allowed to the left end (2.52) and fifth in runs allowed to right end (2.42). Johnson will face additional challenges in that San Francisco's defense doesn't have much incentive to back into coverage with Vince Young(notes) under center. In fact, because Young rolls out so much, and is so much better as a passer when he does, the Niners have all the reason in the world to guard the edges above all else.
So watch San Francisco's edge defenders -- the always underrated Justin Smith(notes) at end, and outside linebackers Manny Lawson(notes) and Parys Haralson(notes) -- especially on those breakout plays in which Johnson tries to bounce outside. Last Sunday, the Niners negated Indy's rushing attack, and the ubiquitous stretch play, limiting Joseph Addai(notes) to 62 yards on 20 carries. True to the ethos of head coach Mike Singletary, these guys arrive at the ballcarrier in a very bad mood. Can they stop Johnson, the single most dangerous ground threat in the league?
- San Francisco