Johnson Must Lead in San Diego

The silence is broken. It's all been figured out according to Larry Johnson. On Monday, the frustrated running back finally offered up a solution for his team's offensive woes. It's a basic game, and LJ has a solid plan.

I'll give Johnson credit for one thing - he speaks his mind. He should, since he's the highest paid player on the team.

"It's not a chess game," said Johnson. "It's checkers. When they're looking for the run, you pass. When they're looking for the pass, you run. When they put nine guys in the box, you pass. When they overload to one side, you run to the other side."

He makes a good point. To players, the game is simple - go out and make plays. For the coaches, it's far different. They spend hours and hours trying to outthink their opponents, so much that they forget to look at what's really happening in a game from one series to the next.

"Sometimes they make it so difficult during a game, like it's trigonometry," said Johnson. "If this guy moves two feet back or this guy slides over six feet, we've got to do this or do that. In the game, it never happens that way."

Johnson is correct, but he's not free from blame in this situation. He's not running with the same force we saw during his back to back 1,700-yard seasons. It's clear he won't reach that number this season, but that shouldn't deter him from attacking the line of scrimmage.

Here are the top five backs in the NFL through three weeks.

1. Willie Parker PIT 368
2. LaMont Jordan OAK 350
3. Jamal Lewis CLE 307
4. Travis Henry DEN 302
5. Brian Westbrook PHI 291

Johnson is way down the list, and so is his counterpart in San Diego this week, LaDainian Tomlinson. They sit at 30th and 33rd respectively, out of 41 players with at least 19 rushing attempts.

And that is what this is all about. Johnson can get mad and yell at the coaches, but he also needs to quit pouting on the sidelines. He has to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Being competitive is OK, but sitting alone on the bench after a bad series won't get the job done either.

He needs to be tied to the hips of quarterback Damon Huard, tight end Tony Gonzalez and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. If they need to draw up street plays on the sidelines, so be it. They are the playmakers, the ones who score the touchdowns.

The positive aspect about Sunday's victory was that the coaches listened and the players executed better in the third and fourth quarters. Johnson wasn't running the ball that well, but he was delivering devastating blocks that gave Huard more time to throw the ball. That's a sign LJ understands he can still contribute even when he's not ripping off first downs. This shouldn't be overlooked.

His outburst wasn't a bad thing, and it shouldn't be taken that way. It's actually a good sign. Johnson was on the phone to offensive coordinator Mike Solari during the game and I'm sure he was saying what everyone else in the stands and the press box was thinking. Afterwards, Herm Edwards consoled him on the sidelines, because he knows LJ's emotion can get in the way of greatness. Getting Johnson on track is the key to the Chiefs' entire season.

They enter the Chargers game with a chance at first place in the division. The Denver Broncos travel to Indianapolis this week. If the Chiefs win this weekend, they'll move two up on San Diego because of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The plan is to win every NFL game, but the Chiefs players and coaches have to treat this single game as their Super Bowl. They have to pull out all the stops in beating their division rival.

With six of the next eight games at home, the Chiefs can grab control of the suddenly mediocre AFC West. But if they lose to the Chargers, they'll be forced to use that home serve to play catch up instead of taking control of the division.

So for LJ and company it's all about Sunday. The coaches can't attempt to outthink the Chargers. On offense, you have to pass with eight and nine guys in the box. When the linebackers are sitting back, you run the ball. On defense, they need to simply attack LT and get in Philip Rivers' face.

If they can do that and avoid turnovers in what will be a partisan Chiefs crowd, this team can turn its season around.

And this needs to be the game where Johnson carries his team on his back and does all the little things correctly. That's why he's the $19 million man.

The Chargers believe this one is in the bag. The Chiefs need to throw that bag to the curb and sink the Chargers while they're vulnerable. By doing that, Kansas City will silence their critics from both within the team and in the media.

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