Chiefs ILB Derrick Johnson doesn't hesitate to say that the 2011 season did not begin the way he or the team envisioned. Blown out in Weeks One and Two, the defending AFC West champs could have easily thrown in the towel and called it a year. Though they played better in Week Three, it still resulted in a loss for K.C.
However, it was that third defeat, 20-17 to the Chargers in San Diego, which Johnson said turned the Chiefs' season around. The linebacker told PFW that he and his teammates gained confidence playing a game down to the wire against a top opponent after being embarrassed each of the first two weeks. Since then, the Chiefs have rattled off three straight wins heading into a Week Eight rematch with the Chargers on "Monday Night Football."
"After giving up 40 points for two weeks straight, no one gave us a chance to even go to San Diego and even have a chance," Johnson said "So we actually used that as motivation and just fought back, just knew that this is a long season and a couple of bad games never puts you out of it."
The team has rallied in large part because of Johnson's play. Lining up in the center of a 3-4 defense, the linebacker leads the team in tackles by a healthy margin and has shined brightest in the biggest moments of games. None was bigger than the Week Seven victory at Oakland, where Johnson stopped Raiders RB Michael Bush on three of four plays at the goal line to preserve a shutout. On plays like those, he said, Romeo Crennel's defense instructs him to be patient and use his instincts.
"It's not a defense where you're saying we're trying to get tackles for losses every time," Johnson said of his coordinator's playbook. "I just kind of feel the linemen and see the back, and that kind of lets me use my ability to shed blockers or shoot gaps or take my chances in the scheme of the defense."
With the slow start behind them, Johnson said he and his teammates are ready to make a second-half run at another playoff appearance.
"You can never panic," said Johnson. "No one draws it up the way we drew it up. Nobody wants to start 0-3; that's hard to get out of. We're in the pack right now; now we just have to get out ahead of the pack."
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