NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- All week the Broncos preached it -- stop Chris Johnson, stop the Tennessee Titans.
But aiming to slow down the two-time Pro Bowler, who won last season's rushing title by nearly 800 yards en route to becoming just the sixth player in NFL history to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark, is one thing. Backing it up is something not many teams have been able to do since Johnson entered the league in 2008.
On Sunday at LP Stadium, that's exactly what the Denver defense did.
"You knew Chris Johnson was the key,"
Johnson, who entered the contest averaging more than 100 yards per game, was held to 53 yards on 19 carries -- a 2.8 yards-per-carry average. The East Carolina product fumbled once and never found the end zone.
And perhaps most importantly, with the Titans up four with 4:32 remaining in the game, the defense made sure the back couldn't grind away the clock for a victory.
After his first two carries -- the second of which was his longest of the day, an 8-yarder -- picked up a first down, the defense dug in.
"He's one of the best players in the NFL, so he's going to make plays," Ayers said. "He had a couple extra-effort plays, and it's just our job to not let that get us down. He's going to get one, we've just got to bounce back the next play and respond."
The defense's response? Johnson's next two runs combined for a loss of a yard. And on third down, pressure from
The key to the defense's success, Dawkins said, was having "a party at the ball."
"We rallied to the ball," the captain said. "We didn't depend on one guy to make the tackle. If you go back and watch the film, even if one guy makes the tackle, you're going to see five or six guys waiting right behind him just in case he escapes. That was the emphasis, and we have to continue that tackle work ethic every week."
Head Coach Josh McDaniels said the team blitzed both outside linebackers on virtually every play of the game, making sure the elusive back couldn't bounce a play to the sideline, "where he makes most of his big plays."
Johnson was stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage four times.
"I tell you what, it wasn't an easy job,"
But the run defense wasn't perfect. Johnson's backup, Javon Ringer, broke off a 54-yard jaunt deep into Broncos territory on one of his two carries, proof enough for Dawkins that the defense still has plenty of room for improvement.
Still, the unit hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, and is tied for 12th in the league in run defense.
But the defense is more concerned with the scoreboard at the end of the day.
"We're not thinking about stats right now, we just want to continue to go out and try to dominate each play each week," Haggan said. "If we do our job, the offense does their job and special teams plays as a team, we'll play like this a lot of Sundays."