Homegrown Buccaneer Leonard Johnson: Right Place, Right Time

Tom EdringtonSenior Writer INovember 12, 2012

Leonard Johnson came to the rescue on Sunday. (photo courtesy Buccaneers.com)
Leonard Johnson came to the rescue on Sunday. (photo courtesy Buccaneers.com)

You want the definition of nervous?

How about sitting there in Raymond James Stadium, during a tough game with the Chargers while things are pretty shaky as usual with the pass defense and Phillip Rivers is having his way during the first half.

To say it was a nervous crowd would be your proverbial understatement.

Want to make it worse?

Look out there at the corners and your guys are Leonard Johnson and (cough, cough) a guy named LaQuan Lewis.

Scary? Not sure that pair would strike much fear in the heart of Matt Ryan, Drew Brees or Tom Brady.

Nevertheless, the situation the Buc defense faced late Sunday was certainly scary.

Let's set the stage for a moment.

On the first San Diego series of the game, Johnson whiffed on a tackle, really botched it up and let wide receiver Danario Alexander cut loose with no safety help to stop the guy. It went for 80 yards and a score and the Chargers had their first touchdown that looked too, too easy.

The groans from section 133 were as loud as the groans from the rest of Raymond James.

Later in the game, Lewis made a newbie mistake as well. He started, stopped then started again on a kickoff return and made it all the way to his own 9-yard line.

Bucs fans were wondering if he was the best kickoff return option.

Now fast forward to the fourth quarter.

Johnson (May we now call him "LJ?") made the play of the game. It looked for all intents and purposes like San Diego would score, sitting there at the Buccaneer 23, 3rd-and-4 and the Chargers were converting third downs on this perfect afternoon for football. The Bucs had a really nervous 24-21 lead and at worst, it was looking like it would be a tie ballgame with a little more than 13 minutes to play.

Then Phillip Rivers did what he's done too often this season. He made a bonehead play.

He rolled right and kept moving. Gerald McCoy was in pursuit. He kept heading for the sideline, looking like he'd surely just run out of bounds and turn it over to his field-goal unit.

Then it happened. He threw the ball right to Johnson. He hit him perfectly, not too hard, just right. Johnson then headed straight up the sideline. Now remember that everyone passed on the kid because of his 4.6-plus speed in the 40. Sometimes that stuff doesn't matter and this was the moment.

He shed a would-be tackle by offensive tackle Jeromey Clary, a 320-pounder, then he flew past 330-pounder Louis Vasquez, an offensive guard who had the angle on him. Thank goodness for 4.6 speed!

By the time he reached the 20, some of our military troops on the sideline were the closest defenders to him and Johnson simply high-stepped the final 20 to paydirt. Deion Sanders never looked so good.

That was the play that won this ball game and gave the Bucs a WINNING RECORD! Johnson had covered 83 yards, the fourth longest pick return in franchise history.

How does that sound? A winning record.

They're 5-4 and there will be no repeat of last year's 10-game loss debacle.

This team is good and it knows how to play as a team.

The Bucs didn't have their best stuff on Sunday. They didn't. But they knew how to win. They knew how to close.

And what about LaQuan Lewis, the guy who made everyone nervous, the guy just called up from the practice squad?

He made the interception that ended it for San Diego.

How about them apples? 


Quincy Black's Injury Is "Serious": OneBucSite.com.