Much attention has come to inside linebacker Derrick Johnson for his role in the goal-line stand the Chiefs defense had Sunday in Oakland.
One tackle, two tackles, part of a third tackle and then the deciding fourth stop of Michael Bush on fourth-and-goal at the Kansas City 1-yard line those were all the work of the seventh-year linebacker and former first-round draft choice out of the University of Texas.
But none of them may have been his most important stop of the day. In a performance in which he finished with 13 total tackles, the best play Johnson made came just before the goal-line stand. If it weren't for his hustle and athletic ability, there never would have been a first-and-goal play at the Chiefs' 5-yard line.
"What he did at the goal line was great," cornerback Brandon Carr said. "But what he did when he ran down Bush was the play of the game. If he doesn't do that, there's only a touchdown, no goal-line stand, and they are back in the game."
Strong safety Jon McGraw agreed.
"He never gave up on that play," McGraw said. "That he could stop him that far down the field was all you need to know about what drives him. His motor is always on."
It was a first-down play at the Chiefs' 40-yard line just less than a minute into the second quarter when the Raiders ran over left tackle. Here's what happened:
On the left side of the Oakland line, guard Stefan Wisniewski was able to handle Chiefs nose tackle Kelly Gregg one-on- one, shielding him from becoming part of the play.
Left tackle Jared Veldheer and tight end Kevin Boss buried defensive end Glenn Dorsey with a double-team block.
Right guard Cooper Carlisle pulled to his left, went down the line and took outside linebacker Tamba Hali out of the play.
Fullback Manase Tonga led Bush through the hole and blocked inside linebacker Jovan Belcher, and with that hit also kept McGraw out of the play.
Bush found the big opening without a hand landing on him. He burst through the hole, then began angling back toward the middle of the field and away from Carr, who was closing fast on his left.
Free safety Kendrick Lewis came up and missed the tackle, getting just part of Bush's right leg.
Lewis' missed tackle slowed Bush down, and chasing from behind, Johnson finally caught up with the running back right around the 9-yard line.
Johnson went high around Bush's shoulders to secure the tackle, and forward momentum carried the two players to the 5-yard line, setting up first-and-goal.
"I wanted to go at his legs a couple of times when I was chasing him, but I knew the odds weren't good that I would get him down without some power," Johnson said. He had come as far forward as the 39-yard line before he reversed field and started chasing after Bush. "He got the head start, but I was finally able to catch up."
Cornerback Brandon Flowers couldn't believe Johnson got there.
"I was downfield, and a guy was blocking on me and I tried to turn to get away from him, and when I got back around, there (Johnson) was pulling him down," Flowers said. "I didn't know where he came from.
"Then you watch the tape and see how far down the field he chased him. That was a helluva play."
In the Oakland game, and most of the games this season, Johnson has not done much chasing from behind. He's been explosive in his pursuit, blasting through gaps in the blocking front and running into ball carriers head on.
That's what he did so well on the goal line, where he made the tackle on first, second and fourth down. Those plays had his head coach calling Johnson a "missile."
"That was probably one of the best games I've seen him play," Todd Haley said. "As good as he's played, he keeps getting better, and it looks like he can continue that. Just a terrific, terrific afternoon by him, especially on those plays down at the goal line."
Johnson's stat line for the season is not impressive. He's been credited with 61 total tackles, leading the team. But he's not had a sack, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble or grabbed an interception. The obvious big plays have been at a minimum. But there's no stat line for tackles made 30 yards down the field, or stops at the goal line.
"It was one my better games," Johnson said. "I think I'm capable of playing even better. I wasn't perfect. I got so much help from the defensive line. They did a great job of allowing me to use my athleticism to make some nice tackles."
SERIES HISTORY: 103rd regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series, 51-50-1. The Chargers won the most recent meeting between the two former AFL teams, grabbing a 20-17 victory in San Diego on Sept. 25.