View Full Version : Posnanski: Backfield tag team can rock the NFL

09-12-2005, 01:16 AM

Backfield tag team can rock the NFL

Kansas City Star

A Priest and a Larry walk into a game. It’s no joke. No way. It’s electric. It’s inescapable. If you want to talk jokes, there’s an old one about a man being so rich that when he writes a check, the bank bounces. Well, Sunday afternoon, the Chiefs unleashed Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson on the New York Jets.

The NFL bounced.

You could feel the tremors. Sunday, the Chiefs humiliated a Jets team that was one kick away from the AFC championship game a year ago. The Chiefs won 27-7. The game wasn’t half that close. Here was Holmes, the greatest touchdown scorer in the NFL. There was Johnson, a 230-pound blur who can break away at any time. Here was Holmes, cutting, slicing and coming at you over and over again. There was Johnson running like mad into the line as if he were late for a touchdown appointment.

It’s funny — even after the game, people kept asking the question they asked all offseason: Who is better, Priest or Larry? But after watching them on Sunday — after watching Holmes pick and pound his way for 85 yards and a touchdown, after watching Johnson blast his way for 110 and two scores — I think that’s the wrong question.

The right question is this: Can a Priest and a Larry share the stage?

If they can, they might turn the NFL upside down.

The league has never seen anything quite like this duo. The great Green Bay Packers teams of the early 1960s mixed the power of Jim Taylor and the flash of Paul Hornung. The undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins had two 1,000-yard rushers; Larry Csonka was the muscle, and Mercury Morris was the getaway car.

But this Holmes-Johnson combo is different. They both have power. They both have speed. Priest Holmes has been the most dominating offensive player in the NFL the last four years. He has, very often, been a one-man force, a running-catching-blocking touchdown machine. In 54 games, he has piled up more than 7,700 total yards and 70 touchdowns. No player in NFL history has done as much in so little time.

The only thing that Holmes has not done is break the long run. Holmes is just not a breakaway runner. He slams at you again and again. Holmes is a body puncher, wearing you down, taking 5 yards, 7 yards, 11 yards at a time. He does not go for the knockout.

Enter Larry Johnson. The guy’s a supersonic jet. He can score anywhere, anytime. He showed that last year, becoming the first Chiefs player to break two 40-plus-yard touchdown runs in the same game. He showed it again in the preseason, when he ran 97 yards for a score, the longest run in Chiefs history if it had counted. He showed it again Sunday, the first time he touched the ball. Johnson followed a crushing Willie Roaf block, bounced outside and ran 35 yards for a touchdown.

Holmes has been some kind of wonderful. But he does not have even one 35-yard touchdown run in his Chiefs career.

Apart, they are terrific backs. No doubt. But together they might make a tag team for the ages. The Jets never knew what hit them. First series, Holmes came out, ran for 5 yards, ran for 35 and waved in Johnson, who broke off that 35-yard touchdown run.

Second series, Holmes got the ball at the Jets’ 3, pulled himself out of the grasp of Jets cornerback David Barrett, slipped by two others, stretched for a classic Holmes score.

Later, Larry Johnson ran in from 4 yards, running so hard into a group of Jets defenders that the collision sounded like a sonic boom.

“I’m young, and I don’t care,” Johnson would say. “I’m going to run into people.”

Later still, in the fourth quarter with the Chiefs up comfortably, Holmes carried the ball seven times in a grueling 7-minute drive that pretty much ran out the clock.

It’s merciless. Prepare for Holmes’ shifting, and you will find yourself grasping at Johnson’s jersey as he sprints by. Get ready for Johnson’s speed, and Holmes will slip by you, pick up first downs, cut you again and again.

If the Chiefs can find the right recipe, give each man the ball enough, work out some unique plays, keep them both happy and hungry, then Priest Johnson (or, if you prefer, Larry Holmes) could be utterly unstoppable.

Then, that’s the challenge. Great running backs, by their nature, don’t like to share. After the game, even Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil conceded that splitting time is “not ideal for either guy.” Great backs want to be on the field. It’s not just ego, although that’s part of it. The great backs (and even the not-so-great) believe that they need the ball again and again to get in the flow of the game.

As one Chiefs player whispered after the game, “It will be very interesting to see where this thing goes from here.”

It will be interesting. The key to this being a magical season may come down to Vermeil and offensive coordinator Al Saunders convincing Holmes and Johnson that they are better together, like McCartney and Lennon were better together, like Martin and Lewis were better together, like Summerall and Madden were better together.

Holmes should be easier to convince. He’s been injured twice in the last three years; he understands that giving Johnson some carries should keep him fresher and stronger.

Johnson figures to be trickier — he’s just 25 and, like most talented kids, starved for playing time and the bright lights. For now, though, Johnson seems to get it, too. He talks about how Holmes has taught him patience and helped him be calmer. He says that he felt content getting nine carries Sunday. Johnson has even come up with a nickname for himself and Holmes — “The Church Backfield.”

“Priest prays over them,” Johnson says, “and I bury them.”

It’s a good line — Priest prays, Larry buries. Trouble is, I’m not sure how that slogan leads to “The Church Backfield” since, as far as I know, they don’t bury people at church. Maybe they could be “The Funeral Parlor,” or “The Last Rites Duo” or the “Graveyard Shift” or “The Executioners” or something like that.

In any case, it’s good to hear Johnson talk about teaming up with Holmes. Johnson could be a great back before he’s done. But people want to rush right in, make him the starter, and they forget that Johnson has not yet proved he can carry the load.

Anyway, it’s better this way. Holmes-Johnson. Johnson-Holmes. If the left hand doesn’t get you, the right hand will. Look: The Chiefs defense really did look good Sunday. Arrowhead Stadium seemed its old intimidating self. The offensive line opened holes, even with Willie Roaf out. Trent Green threw some nice passes. Dante Hall is still the scariest return man in the league. Holmes and Johnson were unstoppable. The Chiefs looked … well … great.

Sure, it’s only one game. You don’t want to go crazy after just one game. But it was one heck of a show. And it reminds of a joke: Have you heard the one where a Priest and a Larry go to Detroit?

Hammock Parties
09-12-2005, 01:19 AM
I'm as giddy as a schoolboy.

09-12-2005, 01:26 AM
the PH-LJ deal is gonna be a sweet thing this year.

That first drive nearly made me shit myself. 1:20 second drive or whatever was surreal. It got loud in there real quick... great shit.

09-12-2005, 01:39 AM
oh yeah, what was the stat they were putting up?

A total of two 35+ yard runs all of last year. And we match it on the first drive.

Hope we can do it again vs. oakland.

Spicy McHaggis
09-12-2005, 02:01 AM
We can have two 1000 yard rushers this year. Unreal. Just unreal.

Ultra Peanut
09-12-2005, 04:52 AM

09-12-2005, 04:56 AM
i bet LJ wasn't even sore after the game

09-12-2005, 04:57 AM
oh and is me or do you think LJ would cut a TD run back inside just to get a lick on the saftey. He runs with so much anger you would think someone told him gaterade is better than h20

Ultra Peanut
09-12-2005, 05:01 AM
oh and is me or do you think LJ would cut a TD run back inside just to get a lick on the saftey. He runs with so much anger you would think someone told him gaterade is better than h20Waaaater sucks, it really, really sucks!

09-12-2005, 05:10 AM
the PH-LJ deal is gonna be a sweet thing this year.

That first drive nearly made me shit myself. 1:20 second drive or whatever was surreal. It got loud in there real quick... great shit.

It wasn't just a 1:20 scoring drive, it was a 1:20 minute scoring drive ON THE GROUND.

Skip Towne
09-12-2005, 05:15 AM
Waaaater sucks, it really, really sucks!
Water sucks? You'd die in 10 days without it.

09-12-2005, 06:51 AM
The Church backfield baby!

09-12-2005, 06:55 AM
“Priest prays over them,” Johnson says, “and I bury them.”

Nice.I was thinking in pre-season that Holmes would get his yards and a couple of td's sometime in the first half and then Saunders would unleash LJ to do the burying in the 2nd half.I never expexted what I saw yesterday,everyone in our section at Arrowhead was like"Holy shit!Did you see that."

On a fantasy note I'm strongly considering plugging both guys in as starters.

09-12-2005, 07:21 AM
I like the "Holy Rollers."

Johson rolls over you or rolls by you.

Holmes runs through you or around you.

They both roll up the stats and the scoring and the TOP...