KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Johnnie Johnson's biggest thrill in football was a zero--the one he saw on the Arrowhead Stadium scoreboard at the end of Sunday's game.
"It's a great feeling," the Rams' free safety said of the 16-0 shutout, "the greatest feeling I've had since I've been in the league."
The Rams' last previous shutout came on Jan. 6, 1980--a 9-0 NFC title game win at Tampa Bay, the season before Johnson arrived as a first-round draft choice from Texas. Sunday's shutout meant more to Johnson than the Rams' perfect record.
"There's nothing that says we have to go the entire season undefeated," said Johnson, who collected one of the six interceptions Todd Blackledge threw. "The bottom line is what takes place after 16 games. It's nothing more than when you look in the paper under the 'L' column and there's a zero there."
But shutouts are special for a defense.
"If anyone deserved it, it's our defensive coaching staff," Johnson said. "They work their butts off all the time. We get all the ink but they do a great job.
"They (the Chiefs) didn't do anything we didn't expect. The thing we really wanted to do was a good job of disguising the coverages, especially since we got Blackledge. If he starts dropping back and has to read the coverage on the run. . . . "
However, Johnson said the Rams didn't expect to see Blackledge. Bill Kenney had been listed as questionable all week but had no specific disabling injuries.
"We came into the game thinking we'd get Kenney and we got Blackledge," Johnson said. "At halftime we--the secondary--talked about if they make a change, maybe we'd get Kenney sometime, but he (Blackledge) stayed in and kept throwing us balls.
"All the interceptions were great interceptions. It's a great feeling to look over and see one of your teammates make a great play. Last year, we only had 17 interceptions the entire season. We're looking at turnovers. We talk about turnovers all the time. You look for any way you can turn the ball over to the offense."
But the Rams' offense didn't always cash in on the opportunities.
"We win different ways," Johnson said. "We win with defense and special teams. I still feel that before the year is over our offense will bail us out. It doesn't matter how you win.
"We're glad to get out of here with a win, but next week is the big one."
The Rams play the defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers (3-4) at Anaheim Sunday.
"It gives us a great opportunity next week to really put some distance between us and the second-place team," Johnson said. "But if any team in the league can put together a string of victories, it's San Francisco.
"We have a tremendous amount of confidence in ourselves, too. We don't care what anyone else thinks."
The pressure, Johnson said, is on the 49ers.
"Look at it from their viewpoint. If they lose next week they're five games out with eight games left. Then they're on the verge of not making the playoffs at all, never mind about catching us."