Johnson makes preseason debut in Rams’ 10-3 victory over Chiefs
ST. LOUIS (AP)—Larry Johnson got the break-in work he needed while supplying a lackluster Chiefs-Rams preseason finale with just a smidgen of star power.
Johnson, who ended a 25-day holdout earlier in the month, was the only starter of substance for either team who got on the field in St. Louis’ 10-3 victory Thursday night. He shook off a bit of rust, carrying three times for 12 yards at the start of the Chiefs’ first drive.
“I was able to get out there and know where the holes were and how the guys were going to go against live competition,” Johnson said. “It was good for me to be out there and experience it before the regular season.”
Third-string quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Marques Hagans in the third quarter to give the Rams (2-2) a 10-0 lead. Hagans, a fifth-round pick last year battling for a receiving spot, had four catches for 53 yards.
“At least I know I went out and gave it my all,” Hagans said. “I left it all on the field. Whatever happens after that is meant to be.”
The Chiefs (0-4) were held to a 40-yard field goal by Justin Medlock late in the fourth quarter and wound up winless in the preseason, trailing the NFL with 32 points. Kansas City lost the Governor’s Cup game, a contest so uninspiring that the Rams bought the final 900 tickets to ensure a sellout for only the second time in six seasons.
Chiefs coach Herman Edwards didn’t want Johnson to play, but was talked into it by the running back.
“I held my breath,” Edwards said. “We talked about it and I told him not to be a hero. There’s a lot of guys I couldn’t get out there fast enough, to be quite honest.”
The Rams figure to have a high-scoring offense featuring Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger, but totaled only 46 points in the preseason. Jackson, who led the NFL with 2,334 yards rushing and receiving last year, ended the preseason with only two receptions and no carries.
After ceremonial starts the previous two games, Jackson spent the whole time on the sideline watching with the rest of the first string.
“I think that’s how everyone kind of does it now,” said backup quarterback Gus Frerotte, who got the start. “The first game, you always get yourself ready to go and everyone on the team will be prepared mentally and physically.”
The Rams gave cornerback Fakhir Brown a start before he begins a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Ronald Bartell, a second-round pick in 2005, will be making his first career start in place of Brown in the Rams’ opener Sept. 9 at home against the Carolina Panthers.
Edwards didn’t seem concerned with going winless in the preseason.
“I take it for what it’s worth,” Edwards said. “Now, it’s for real. These guys understand that and I’m looking forward to next week.”
Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen, suspended for a DUI for the first two games, also made his final appearance before an enforced absence.
The biggest excitement of the first half, which ended with the Rams leading 3-0, was when St. Louis came up empty in a frenzied final seconds. Fitzpatrick scrambled to the 1 on third-and-goal with about 13 seconds to go, but no timeouts remaining. He hurried to get off one more play and then got an off-line snap from center Dustin Fry that he had to scoop off the turf. He scrambled free and threw just wide in the end zone for Hagans.
Dane Looker, who caught no passes last year but was valuable as the holder for kicker Jeff Wilkins, had five receptions for 45 yards on the Rams’ opening drive to set up a 36-yard field goal by Kevin Lovell.
Rams offensive lineman Todd Steussie, who has missed only two games since entering the NFL in 1994, broke his left foot in the first half. Steussie, 36, is a backup this year, but made 15 starts at left guard and left tackle due to Rams injuries in 2006.
Linehan said Steussie would be sidelined six to eight weeks and would undergo surgery as soon as possible. Steussie will be placed on the physically unable to perform list.
Rams C Andy McCollum, who lost the starting job to Brett Romberg earlier in the week, started with the second-stringers. … St. Louis S Andre Kirkland (hyperextended knee) had an MRI exam scheduled; DE Eric Moore (back spasms) was considered fine after the game. … The Chiefs had no injuries of note.