Now it's Larry Johnson's turn to try to pound his way through the Carolina Panthers' defense.
Johnson, who reasserted himself as Kansas City's most important weapon with 198 yards rushing last Sunday in the Chiefs' upset of Denver, will meet the Panthers at 1p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
Through four games, Carolina has met the challenge of every opponent's running attack, holding four acclaimed feature backs (LaDainian Tomlinson, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner) below 100 rushing yards.
Johnson might prove to be tougher than any of them.
For one thing, he's hitting his stride after a slow start that upset him considerably.
In Kansas City's first two games, both losses, he had 22 carries for 74 yards against New England and then just 12 for 22 yards against Oakland.
He was irritated after the second of those games, saying he needed “20 or 30 carries” to get in a rhythm.
The coaches apparently listened. Johnson got 24 carries for 121 yards against Atlanta and then busted loose for 198 yards on 28 carries in the upset of Denver.
“All good running backs want the ball more, but we got into some games in the second half where we were down by a deficit where we had to throw the football,” Kansas City coach Herm Edwards said during his conference call with area media this week. “A win and you run like he did, that should make you happy.”
Johnson, on a conference call of his own a few minutes later, didn't dodge the subject.
“As long as we understand that for me to be successful, I have to get the ball more than 12 or 20 times during a ballgame,” he said. “I understand during some games if we're down a whole bunch of points, but I still feel I need to be in there to try to contribute in some way to this offense.
“I think last week we understood that and tried to get the ball to me as many times as possible for me to make plays.”
Asked if he worried about a large number of carries eventually wearing him down, Johnson said, “Everybody's different. I'm not 5-foot-8 and 215. I need carries to move me throughout the game. So I don't really care how many carries I have.”
Keep in mind that Johnson isn't your ordinary NFL running back.
Not yet 29, he's a 6-foot-1, 230-pound powerhouse who rushed for 1,750 yards in 2005 and 1,789 in '06. Last year, he was slowed by a foot injury and missed the last half of the season. He's healthy now and the Panthers are well aware of what's coming.
“I mean, he's a big physical force running the ball,” said Carolina defensive tackle Damione Lewis. “I think coach's comparison to him in the league was (St. Louis's) Steven Jackson. He's full speed ahead; he's going at full steam running downhill, so we just have to have to step up to the challenge and get after him.”
Johnson was asked if last week was something of a statement game for him.
“I think so,” he said. “Sometimes people seem to forget (what kind of player I've been) over my career, even when I was starting out. But I go out there and try to prove it on every play of every game that I have a chance to play.”
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