Tennessee RB Chris Johnson: Monster or myth?

930491.png

Tennessee RB Chris Johnson: Monster or myth?

The mantra of the Chicago Bears defense is to take away an opponents run game and make that team one-dimensional, then loose the pass rush.

The stop-run concept is sound. The Bears have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 18 straight games, not since Jahvid Bests 163 in the first Detroit game last season.

Whether that is a good approach to the Tennessee Titans, however, is a matter of opinion. It may be in their best interests to just let former All-Pro Chris Johnson run.

The Bears completely throttled Johnson the last time the two teams met (2008), allowing him just eight yards in 14 carries. The Bears lost that game 21-14 because they couldnt control journeyman QB Kerry Collins.

Making nice-nice

The Bears are paying the standard game-week compliments.

Chris Johnson is a homerun hitter, said linebacker Lance Briggs.

So is Adam Dunn for the White Sox and he strikes out a lot. A lot.

Johnson may well run amok. He has in his career, with an NFL-record four touchdown runs of 80 yards or longer. Not Barry Sanders, O.J. Simpson nor anyone else has done that more than three times.

He exploded on the NFL with 2,006 yards in 2009, his second season. But the Titans were an 8-8 team that year and have only had one winning season (2011, 9-7) since Johnsons rookie season.

And the Bears are the NFLs best rushing defense at 77.9 yards per game.

Big stats vs. bad teams

But Johnson has been less than impressive over the past three years against good teams. Of his last 12 games rushing for 100 yards, only two have come against teams with winning records.

Johnson had four 100-yard games in 2011, against Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Cleveland, teams with a combined record of 20-44. None of the four ranked higher than 25th against the run. His peak was 190 against the Buccaneers 32nd-ranked run defense.

This year, Johnson ran for 141 yards against the Houston Texans; the Titans were blown out by 24. He ran for 195 yards against Buffalo. The Titans needed a Matt Hasselbeck TD pass with 1 minute to play for a 35-34 escape from a team that is the NFLs worst against the run and close to firing defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt.

The Titans lavished a four-year contract extension worth as much as 53.5 million prior to last season. They have not gotten their moneys worth, although Johnson helped set the market in which Matt Forte was working this year when he got his new deal done.

But while Hasselbeck has done damage to the Bears, Johnson is the declared source of most concern.

Hes lightning. He can hit a hole with a great deal of quickness, but its his ability to cut back and break outside, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. I mean, hes something.

Just what exactly isnt always or entirely clear.

Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets

dec-5-update-image.jpg
USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets

Here are some of the top stories from Sunday in Chicago sports:

Five Things to Watch: Bulls back in action against Trail Blazers

Tune in tonight for Chicago Bulls Charities Night

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

Bears offense finds groove in win over 49ers

Winter meetings preview: Why teams will find trying to copy a ‘Cubs Way’ rebuild is easier said than done

White Sox revamp would mean fewer 'stopgaps' and 'half-measures'

Significance of Bears win over 49ers lies beyond records and score

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

Bears' Matt Barkley 'showing the world' he can be a starting QB in the NFL

Lars Johansson excited for Blackhawks call-up

Bulls pass out Christmas gifts to Chicago youth on Sunday

Bulls pass out Christmas gifts to Chicago youth on Sunday

It was hard to tell who was more excited Sunday afternoon: the Bulls players or the 400 kids who stopped by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry as the team passed out Christmas gifts for kids who reside in the Chicago family housing development.

Robin Lopez was carrying about Benny the Bull, much to the surprise and delight of many kids who were in attendance, while Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo took photos and passed out gifts to every child.

Rondo established roots in Chicago long before becoming a Bull, but has become entrenched in the months since signing with the franchise, being a part of the 17th annual holiday party.

“It’s definitely an honor. An honor to be a Bull,” Rondo said. “Since Day 1 when I got here I thought they were the best organization as far as giving back to the community, and it shows. They do it without hesitation.

“Very welcoming. The people have been great. The kids have been here since Day 1 supporting us as well. It’s very exciting.”

Bulls volunteers served lunch provided by Papa John’s, Coca-Cola and Edy’s Ice Cream, as the holiday party is one of the 30 events the Bulls are organizing as part of the team and NBA Cares’ “Season of Giving.”

“It’s no problem for any of us,” Lopez said. “Look at Raj, look at Jimmy, they’re having a blast out there. They’re having as good of a time as the kids out there.”

Being a California native, the newfound snowfall added to the atmosphere for Lopez.

“This really feels like Christmas,” Lopez said. “I can feel the spirit inside with the kids and the looks on their faces when they walk in and see the toys, they see Jimmy Butler and they’re so excited to be a part of it.”

Whether it was Barbie Dreamhouses, or Nerf basketball rims, the kids were ecstatic to see the Bulls and to pick out the toys being distributed by the Bulls’ stars.

“Very humbling. Over 400 kids. And every kid comes through all smiling and excited,” Rondo said. “Some of them don’t get toys all year and this time of year is about giving. I’m very humbled.”

Butler has been around Bulls Charities since being drafted in 2011, so although this is old hat, he hasn’t lost any of the spirit that comes with doing events like this year after year.

He posed with kids for photos and cracked jokes to the younger basketball fans.

“Feels good. I just like being here. It’s what this time of year is all about, seeing these kids smile,” Butler said. “I love kids, I love this city, I want everybody to be happy all the time. However I can make that happen, especially around Christmas and the holidays, I’ll do.”

Lopez is quiet to many who see him on the floor, but his eyes lit up around the kids and made Benny the Bull his personal prop by picking him up and carrying him through the museum.

“Every time I see it, it’s a wonderful feeling. To think I’m a small part of it, I can’t begin to describe it,” Lopez said. “Any opportunity I get to work with kids, that’s always easy yes in my book. I’m a big kid at heart. Any time I can go play, I’m in.

“It’s indescribable. I got so many great gifts as a kid, and blessed in so many ways. Just to be able to give back in any facet, that’s an easy yes.”

Sunday's event leads up to Monday's Chicago Bulls Charities Night at the United Center. The Bulls host the Portland Trailblazers at 7 p.m. on CSN.