Linebacker Derrick Johnson's retirement as a Kansas City Chief today brought back memories of the day I was on the sideline to witness the final touchdown of his career.
On a beautiful September afternoon in 2016, the Chiefs were holding a 17-3 lead over the visiting New York Jets with a little more than 3 minutes left in the game.
As much as I would love to paint a dramatic narrative here, I can’t. The Chiefs’ defense had bullied the Jets all game long — most of all quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had thrown 5 interceptions leading into the Jets' next series.
Nonetheless, the Chiefs’ offense was having a pedestrian afternoon — not uncommon in those days — and a New York touchdown would have made it a one-score game.
The Jets' offense got the ball on their own 41, and Fitzpatrick started the drive well, completing an 8-yard pass to then-rookie Robby Anderson.
But, on 2nd and 2, Derrick Johnson put the nail in the Jets’ coffin.
Fitzpatrick threw a short pass to the right intended for Matt Forte that, if successful, would have put the Jets into Chiefs’ territory. Instead, Johnson made a great read on the play and jumped in front of the ball at the Chiefs’ 45, intercepting the pass and weaving his way through white and green jerseys on his way to a 55-yard score.
Much of photography is anticipation, and a defensive touchdown was not something I was expecting.
As luck would have it, I ended up capturing something even better.
While the field goal team prepared to tack on the extra point, the normally mild-mannered Johnson — more excited than I’ve ever seen him — screamed in celebration on the sideline while being embraced by fellow linebacker Justin March-Lillard. I was in the right place, and activated my shutter at the right time. My capture accompanies this article.
“These old wheels started rolling,” Johnson, then 33, told The Kansas City Star, “and I saw all of my teammates blocking for me.”
The touchdown was the fourth of Johnson’s career, and his first in six years. It ended up being his last.
Johnson savored the moment. I did, too.
Jacob Brower is the president of Archer’s Bow Media. A 20-year media professional and lifelong Chiefs fan, Brower has photographed Chiefs games since 2005. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.