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View Full Version : Chiefs Babb: Defense delivers in Chiefs’ 33-19 win over Denver


Tribal Warfare
09-29-2008, 02:21 AM
Defense delivers in Chiefs’ 33-19 win over Denver (http://www.kansascity.com/sports/chiefs/story/818234.html)
By KENT BABB
The Kansas City Star

Derrick Johnson slipped away from the sweaty jubilation and sneaked into a quiet hallway. The Chiefs had done it. They felt like winners again, and Johnson wanted to enjoy it outside the noise.

Nobody could hear him in here, and besides, Kansas City’s 12-game losing streak was over. So he said it: Sunday’s 33-19 win against Denver saved the Chiefs’ season.

“If we lost again,” he said, barely above a whisper, “this team was going to start falling apart. That’s what I was thinking.”

Johnson said the Chiefs’ first three losses, two of them to a pair of the NFL’s worst teams, was taking a knife to the team’s morale. Players had begun to believe it wouldn’t happen this year; that yes, 0-16 might be possible.

That’s why Johnson called a meeting this last week with defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. It was a quiet conversation like this one, and Johnson told Cunningham he wasn’t happy with how he’d been playing. He knew he was drafted in the first round more than three years ago to be a playmaker, and he hadn’t yet hit his potential. Johnson asked for autonomy. Cunningham obliged.

“Good player, everybody knows I’m athletic,” Johnson said. “I haven’t been showing it the last three games. I’ll even say it. I’m not playing bad, but it’s just, ‘Where’s DJ?’

“I told Gun, ‘Let me just go.’ ”

And away Johnson went. He had a sack in the first quarter, a forced fumble and an interception in the third. Then another linebacker, Demorrio Williams, followed Johnson’s lead, collecting five tackles and a deflection. After the Chiefs defense allowed a combined 53 points the last two weeks, Johnson was leading a unit that wouldn’t let up.

The Chiefs’ defense wanted anything during the first three weeks to convince players progress was being made. The team was rebuilding with young players, and although some had shown flashes of their potential, many had not. The Chiefs started five defenders Sunday in their first or second seasons. Experience had been shuffled out of the starting lineup, and optimism had taken its place.

Instead of living with veterans, the Chiefs made it known they’d rather die with youngsters. But wouldn’t a sign of life be nice, even if it was just a sniff?

Then two rookie cornerbacks, Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers, had big plays Sunday. Carr intercepted Jay Cutler in the third quarter, and Flowers recovered a fumble and returned it to the Broncos’ 1. That set up a touchdown. Not only had Kansas City’s defense made a win possible, young players were making it happen.

“When you can actually do it,” rookie defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey said, “good things happen.”

The Broncos averaged about 38 points in their three previous games, all victories. The Chiefs allowed less than half that Sunday. Players spent the previous two weeks looking dazed. Their attitudes had been steamrolled after piling onto the longest losing streak in franchise history.

“Morale’s been pretty low,” guard Brian Waters said Sunday. “I don’t know how much more you could go down.”

Sunday was different. Johnson pumped his fist, Williams high-fived teammates on the sideline, and the Chiefs’ defense had rejuvenated a beaten-down team and given it hope again.

After pounding Denver, forcing four turnovers and harassing Cutler in the process, anything seemed possible.

“We knew it was time to knuckle up,” Williams said.

Players piled into the locker room after the game Sunday, hugging and high-fiving as if they’d won a playoff game. Coach Herm Edwards flung the door open and wrapped his arms around the nearest player he could find. Team president Carl Peterson and chairman Clark Hunt smiled, shook hands and talked about how this team needed a day like Sunday.

“I think what we finally realized that we had to play with passion and just play — not worry about the score, not worry about doing everything right,” Edwards said. “For the most part, we did that.”

It hadn’t felt like this in a Chiefs locker room in a long time, and most players wanted to soak it in.

But Johnson slipped away and smiled while no one was watching. It was a private moment, and Johnson knew how important this moment really was.

“A lot of people — I promise you — a lot of people didn’t think we’d win this game,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have people doubt us. You can’t listen to it, man. Sometimes it’s hard not to. We know what we have in this room. We’ve got talent; we’ve just got to put it out there and let them know, we can compete with any team.”