On Sunday night, Johnson rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries in the Lions’ 26-10 victory over the New England Patriots to silence the talk that has resonated since Reggie Bush reached triple digits on the ground on Thanksgiving Day in 2013.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s a 70-game drought for the Lions (1-2-0).
“I think it was probably the moment I was drafted (I heard it), I can’t remember for sure,” the 21-year-old Johnson said, via ESPN.com “I think it was probably around that time. That was the first time I heard it. Obviously it wasn’t the last.
“But it was the last time I really cared about it. Like I said, I came in ready to work, ready to run. We came in ready to work. We came in ready to run. And that’s how we went through the offseason, that’s how we went through fall camp, and that’s how we went through the regular season.”
Johnson’s performance on Sunday drew praise from Lions legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders.
“Hey @lions fans, send your congrats to @AyeyoKEJO — 100 yards rushing for the 1st time in a while,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.
Thanks to Johnson, Lions center Graham Glasgow is pleased that he won’t have to hear about the team’s lack of a 100-yard rusher anymore.
“Thank God,” Glasgow said, via MLive.com. “We don’t have to talk about the streak anymore. That’d be nice.”
Needing to bolster a ground game that ranked last in the league a year ago, the Lions traded up in the second round to snag Johnson with the No. 43 selection at the 2018 NFL Draft.
New head coach Matt Patricia, who served as the defensive coordinator with the Patriots before taking over the Lions, turned to his former team to move up eight slots in the second round.
Detroit sent the 51st overall pick and a fourth-round selection (No. 117) to New England in exchange for the rights to snare Johnson, the SEC Offensive Player of the Year last season.
Johnson rushed for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2017 for Auburn, including 11 scores in a three-game span.
The 5-foot-11, 213-pound Johnson rumbled for 167 yards in an upset of then-No. 1 Georgia, which wound up advancing to the national championship game.