Larry Johnson has publicly said he doesn’t get enough carries. With Priest Holmes now out for the season, Johnson won’t have anything to complain about when the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Buffalo Bills.
Holmes, a three-time Pro Bowler whose 66 touchdowns between 2002-2004 are an NFL record for any three-year span, suffered a concussion on Oct. 30 during the Chiefs’ loss at San Diego and was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
Injuries have caused Holmes, the Chiefs’ career rushing leader, to cut short two of his last three seasons.
“We’re going to miss him,” coach Dick Vermeil said. “He’s more than a football player for this organization.”
Johnson, who has challenged Vermeil’s decisions on his playing time, showed his coach what he could do as Kansas City’s featured back last Sunday against Oakland.
The Raiders had gone up 23-20 with 1:45 to play before Chiefs quarterback Trent Green, just four days after the funeral of his father, led a 72-yard drive. Johnson got wide open over the middle and took a short pass, then sped to the 1 before two Raiders caught him from behind.
With five seconds to play, Vermeil opted to go for the win instead of kicking a virtually automatic field goal for the tie, and Johnson went vaulting into the end zone on the final play to give the Chiefs a 27-23 victory.
“Down in the red zone, he put the ball in my hands,” said Johnson, who had 107 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. “I’m glad they gave me the opportunity.”
Johnson is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, with 506 yards on 97 attempts, and his nine catches for 115 yards give him an average of 12.8 yards per reception. He also has both of Kansas City’s 100-yard rushing games this year.
“Larry Johnson has already carried the load. He knows he can do it,” Vermeil said. “He just doesn’t have a Priest Holmes backing him up like he backed up Priest Holmes.”
Last Sunday’s win enabled Kansas City to pull within one game of idle Denver for first place in the AFC West.
Buffalo is coming off its bye week, and despite being two games under .500, is still in the thick of the AFC East race. The Bills are tied for second place in the division, one game back of New England.
Buffalo lost its second straight before the bye, falling 21-16 at home to the Patriots despite 136 yards rushing from Willis McGahee. The Bills outplayed New England in almost every facet, but blew a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter.
“I really like this team and I really like our coaching staff. I don’t think it’s a question of talent,” team president Tom Donahoe said. “I think it’s a question of putting it all together.”
“People on the outside might say, `You’re crazy’ or, `You don’t have a chance.’ It really doesn’t matter,” Donahoe said. “Everybody’s bunched up. Whether it takes eight wins, nine, 10 wins, I’m not smart enough to figure that out.
“But I know this,” he added. “We still feel we have a legitimate chance to compete for the division title. And our players believe that and our coaches believe that. And really, that’s all that matters.”
Buffalo’s second-half schedule is not an easy one with matchups still remaining against first-place teams Carolina (6-2), Denver (6-2) and Cincinnati (7-2).
Kansas City hasn’t visited Buffalo since a 20-9 loss on Oct. 22, 1996.
Blog Coverage from SB Nation
Justin March LB, Tavon Rooks T, Sanders Commings S, Paul Fanaika G, Phillip Gaines CB, Jamaal Charles RB, James O'Shaughnessy TE, Ramik Wilson LB, Tamba Hali LB, Jamell Fleming CB, Brian Parker TE, Mike DeVito DE, Chris Conley WR, Travis Kelce TE, Charcandrick West RB, Dee Ford LB, De'Anthony Thomas WR, Ben Grubbs G, Allen Bailey DE