LJ was the offense against the Raiders.
Entering Sunday’s contest looking for their 50th all-time and seventh consecutive win over the Oakland Raiders, the Chiefs were doing somewhat well, considering the circumstances. Down a starting quarterback for more than half the season, the backup gathered five victories despite not even completing a pass since 2000.
The last thing the Chiefs and their fans expected was a decline in productivity, even with a 17-13, last possession victory.
“I don’t think it should’ve come down to the last minute,” said running back Larry Johnson.
Johnson, who turned 27 on Sunday, dominated. He racked up 154 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Whether it was the hyperactive excitement of Trent Green’s return or the outpouring hatred of the Silver and Black, the sea of red roared from the opening kickoff. They were in for a long day.
Flickers of a possible blowout emerged prematurely, as a quick three-and-out series, complete with a false start and a crowd-induced time out, marked Oakland’s first possession. Generously, they created a smooth segue into KC’s opening drive.
Green’s first stint back in the saddle was more than cautious, as his ability to hand the ball off was his only available talent during the opening drive. Johnson carried nine times in an 11-play drive for 53 yards. br>
“It didn’t surprise me,” said Green of the conservative gameplan. “I was prepared for it.”
Dante Hall caught Green’s one and only pass attempt of the first quarter for a whopping three yards.
“I thought he did a good job,” said head coach Herm Edwards. “I thought he did an especially good job when he got hit—he got back up. He didn’t try to do anything crazy with the football and made some good throws, especially in the four-minute situation when we had to score.”
Aaron Brooks, on the other hand, was not under the same caution flag. Oakland’s first scoring drive came without starting running back LaMont Jordan, who went down with a torn MCL after gaining Oakland’s initial first down. Even without the star running back as a crutch, Brooks completed a pair of passes en route to 41-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal.
Brooks turned around and did the same thing in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Settling once more for a Janikowski field goal, KC’s 7-6 lead didn’t allow for much breathing room.
“When you play games like that it makes you a mentally tough football team,” said Edwards.
After Kansas City’s second consecutive three-and-out series, Oakland’s offense forced Chiefs fans to witness what they thought was safe to forget: missed tackles.
“We couldn’t tackle anybody,” said Edwards of his first-half defense. “We definitely couldn’t tackle the quarterback early.”
For the third time in the half, Oakland drove the field with authority. Brooks tossed two 21-yard completions before capping the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Courtney Anderson. The Raiders took a surprising 13-7 lead.
With Herm at the helm, I was amazed at the events that unfolded in the first half. The Chiefs’ defense was downright awful. The relief over Green’s return turned to disgust as his expertise with play action was stifled on account of caution.
At the half, Green had accumulated a total of 11 yards in four attempts. His passer rating was a lowly 56.2 while Brooks was thriving at 126.
The first-half nausea rose higher in the throats of Chiefs’ fans everywhere in the third quarter. Green was sacked for the second time and the Chiefs once again punted the ball away after doing nothing with it.
Green’s first decent pass, a 14-yarder to Eddie Kennison, was sandwiched between a pair of quality LJ runs, setting up a 37-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes, narrowing the deficit to 13-10.
But Tynes would later disappoint the crowd by missing a 35-yarder at the end of a 65-yard drive.
I became irate. When the Raiders play the Chiefs, it’s usually close, but trailing for most of the game via overwhelmingly poor play got to me. The last five minutes of the game was the only part worth watching.
Besides Johnson, Kansas City wasn’t moving the ball. In typical Oakland fashion, penalties kept the Raiders from moving much, either.
Finally the mediocrity gave way to football. Green turned it around with 91 yards in the second half, including a 24-yard bullet to Kennison and a 16-yard shot to Samie Parker. Before you knew it, there was a ballgame going on.
“He did that and he did that with help,” said Edwards of Green’s second-half play. “That’s why you bring a guy like that back. I’m a firm believer that there are reasons guys are starters. It’s not by accident.”
It was then that Johnson was once again called upon to score the winning touchdown, as he was a year ago in this same game. And again, LJ delivered.
“I was pleased,” said Johnson. “The offensive line did great, and we did a lot of things we know we could’ve done.”
He rewarded Green’s resurgence by finishing off an 80-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown with just under two minutes left.
Ten weeks after going down in the season opener, Green earned his first victory of 2006, but he’s well aware that his first win his is team’s sixth. Before Sunday’s start, Green said he spoke with former coach Dick Vermiel, who told him he didn’t need to be the hero.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” said Green. “I’ve been proud of them all year—how well they’ve handled adversity.