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THE 1996 NFL

Johnson's Big Run Bad News for Rams

NFC: Stymied for four quarters, Johnson's 66-yard carry sets up overtime field goal in Cardinals' 31-28 victory.

September 30, 1996|From Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. — Until he touched the ball in overtime, LeShon Johnson had little chance to show why he might be the remedy to the Arizona Cardinals' woeful running game.

He had caught a five-yard scoring pass, one of four Kent Graham threw in a big day by young players who appear to have settled in as the Cardinals' backfield of the future. But the St. Louis Rams bottled him up with 31 yards in 11 carries in regulation.

Then Johnson, making his first NFL start, showed why he was the NFC offensive player of the week last week. His 66-yard run set up a 24-yard field goal by Greg Davis as the Cardinals beat the Rams, 31-28, before only 33,116 Sunday.

"Even though they were stopping me, I never got frustrated," said Johnson, who had two long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter last week. "Any time I can get running north and south, I know I can make things happen."

Graham tied franchise records by completing 14 passes in a row at one stretch and 37 overall. He passed 58 times for 366 yards and touchdowns of 24 yards to Rob Moore, two yards to Johnson, five yards to Larry Centers and five yards to Frank Sanders.

The Cardinals scored twice in the fourth quarter to tie the game as the Rams wilted in the 97-degree heat at Sun Devil Stadium.

Graham completed the comeback with his short throws to Centers and Sanders, who made his crucial reception for the tie with 11 seconds to play.

The Cardinals received the overtime kickoff and started at their 20.

Graham threw a nine-yard pass to Moore, and the next play was a sweep around right end. Johnson, who set a franchise record with 214 yards last week as the Cardinals (2-3) beat New Orleans, looped along the side, slipped past two defenders, cut back to the left and wasn't tackled until he reached the St. Louis eight.

"It makes it a whole lot easier when LeShon makes those big runs," Graham said.

Davis, who missed a 48-yard attempt at the end of the first half, was true this time.

Tony Banks threw three touchdown passes, two to Isaac Bruce and one to fellow rookie Eddie Kennison, who added a 66-yard punt return for a score for the Rams.

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