Larry Johnson Is Ready for Primetime

Talk about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. The Kansas City Chiefs were just under two minutes away from losing yesterday's game against the Oakland Raiders. A loss would have pushed them into last place in the AFC West. After losing to the Chargers last week, the Chiefs needed a win on Sunday and running back Larry Johnson delivered in the waning minutes of the Chiefs most important game this season.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson has said publicly that he should get more carries in crunch time. Head Coach Dick Vermeil obviously listened, calling a run on the 1-yard line, with just five ticks on the clock. With Kansas City trailing by three points, Johnson took the handoff from quarterback Trent Green and sailed over the goal line as time expired. Chiefs win.

"Everybody knows that Larry is a very talented back," said Chiefs guard Brian Waters. "He finally got his opportunity to start today, got all the rushes, caught some passes out of the backfield and showed what he could do."

Johnson certainly did show everyone what he could do as the top back in this offense.

When the pressure was on, he proved he could deliver. Yet, as scintillating as the run was, it was so much more than that. With that game winning run, Johnson served notice to everyone, the Chiefs, the Raiders and the entire league that he is here, and it's going to be tougher than ever to keep him down or off the field in crunch time.

All Johnson has wanted since coming to Kansas City was to be the man. He's wanted to be the guy who the Chiefs turn to when they needed yards, a key catch, or in yesterday's case, a game decisive touchdown.

"It motivates me and they know they can count on me in real big-game situations," Johnson said. "This is a real big game that they put me in to get the job done. I'm pretty sure when they look at the tape and look at my performance they'll see the things I did today."

Johnson knew how important he was to this offense on Sunday. When time was running out, he made plays and he convinced his teammates that he could be counted on. For the afternoon, Johnson ran for 107 yards on 22 carries. On the play previous to the Johnson's leap into Chiefs history, he took a check down from Trent Green and caught a pass for a 36 yard gain that set up his game winning run. The Chiefs could have kicked a chip shot field goal to send the game into overtime, but in a gutsy call by Head Coach Dick Vermeil, he decided to put the game in Johnson's hands.

"It had to do with the way I was running the ball the whole time," Johnson said. "If I wasn't getting any yards, any push, or running downhill I don't think he would have made that call. He would have let Trent or Tony Gonzalez make those plays. But he felt comfortable with me to get that one yard. I just wanted to do my part. It's a tough decision. Do you give it to a running back or do you give it to someone he's comfortable with down in the Red Zone?"

All along, Johnson been telling the Chiefs that he's ready. He shows it in the way he practices, the way he runs, and in the way he's accepted his backup role next to Priest Holmes.

But now that he's gotten the opportunity to show what he can do, it will be tough for the Chiefs to put him back on the shelf whenever Holmes returns. Coach Vermeil talks about profiles, about player personalities and what a guy brings to a football team. Johnson's profile can be summed up in one word.

"He was a warrior today," said Chiefs defensive end Eric Hicks. "He realized everything was on his shoulders. There were no backups. It was just him, and T-Rich [Tony Richardson] was going to come in and help out. We put it on his shoulders to make plays. At the end, you can't ask for more from a young guy; a guy that's ready to step up."

Larry Johnson did just that. Hope everyone was paying attention.

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