Chiefs Beat Chargers: Derrick Johnson Earns His Starting Job

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Before last night, the last time we saw LB Derrick Johnson on the field in a regular season game he was scoring two touchdowns off of interception returns against the Denver Broncos in the Kansas City Chiefs blowout win in week 17 of the 2009 season.

That, along with his solid offseason, earned him the starting nod over Demorrio Williams after one of the most intense position battles of training camp.

On Monday night, and into Tuesday morning, DJ demonstrated why Todd Haley made the correct choice starting him. He led the team in tackles with 12 and generally seemed to have Tamba Hali-like energy consistently being around the ball.

All that was nice but it was one play that made the difference in the game.

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews took a handoff up the middle and broke into the secondary causing some people -- like me -- to think, "Here we go again..."

"He kinda slipped out on us and broke for about a 30-yard run," DJ said, "and I had to do something to help the defense out."

That something was ripping the ball out of Mathews' hands to have it recovered and returned near the Chiefs goal line by CB Brandon Carr.

"it was a good play. A great play."

Indeed, it was a great play -- and a huge one for the Chiefs momentum. Matt Cassel and the Chiefs offense would go on to punch it in from 12 yards out giving the Chiefs a seven-point lead they wouldn't relinquish.

And you can tell DJ has bought into the team concept the Chiefs are preaching because he credited the strong effort from the defensive line. "They did a great job. I told them the whole time they gotta help me out because when they make plays that's when they do good. My hats off to them."

You root for guys like DJ because you know he busted his you-know-what to be in the position he's in. There may not be a Chief who has had to go up against more than DJ. It seemed that the cards were stacked against him from the get-go but he was, for the most part, positive about his role on the team. He never stopped looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and he rewarded Haley for making the right decision.

Listening to him over the last year, you always heard him say his goal was to start. That was always the goal and he never took his eyes off of it.

You think DJ keeps his starting job next week?

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