When his head hits the pillow, Derrick Johnson said that’s when he’ll appreciate becoming the Chiefs career tackle leader.
But at the moment, less than an hour after the Chiefs dropped a 38-28 decision to the Green Bay Packers and surrendered five Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes in the process, it’s not the time.
“I’ve been playing for a while, I’ve had good luck and am fortune enough to have a chance break it this year,” Johnson said.
“That’s an accomplishment for when I go home and lay in bed.”
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But Monday’s effort was foremost on Johnson’s mind, and it wasn’t a happy place, just as it wasn’t 11 days ago when the Chiefs dropped their home opener against the Denver Broncos.
“I don’t want to give out any excuses,” Johnson said. “People said maybe last week took a lot out of us. We knew it was going to be hard coming into the Green Bay and beat them. But it was doable.”
The Chiefs fell behind early and stayed there. They trailed 14-0 after the first quarter, 24-7 at halftime, 31-14 at the end of three quarters.
A rally made the score respectable but didn’t change Johnson’s feeling about the overall performance.
“We’ve got to get better,” Johnson said. “We didn’t play good. Our standards are very high. Today wasn’t a good example of how high are standards are.”
Johnson finished with a team-high eight tackles and a pass deflection. His record tying tackle occurred late in the second quarter, and he broke the team mark early in the third.
On the record-breaker, Johnson was the first to reach James Starks, who went down after a 2-yard gain.
That gave Johnson an even 1,000 tackles in his career.
Johnson entered the night with 995. Gary Spani, the former Kansas State star who played spent his entire NFL career with the Chiefs, retired in 1986 with 999 career stops.
Johnson recorded three tackles in the first quarter on a rainy night Lambeau Field, all of which came at the end of big gains and prevented even bigger plays.
The tackle that tied the record was vintage Johnson. Late in the second quarter, he broke through, wrapped up Starks and dropped him for no gain on second and 1.
The record was his, a year after he figured to break it.
Last season, Johnson, coming off his third straight Pro Bowl season, was fewer than 20 tackles away from the record. He recorded four in the opener against Tennessee before disaster struck.
A torn Achilles’ ended Johnson’s year. He spent the season and months after recovering and thinking about returning to action and picking up where he left off.
In the season opener Sept. 13 at Houston, Johnson was on pace with eight stops. He wanted to break the mark in the home opener against the Broncos on Sept. 17, in a prime-time spot before a national television audience.
The game remained tight throughout the second half before the Broncos won it 31-24 on a fumble return in the final minute.
“I looked up late and saw I didn’t have many tackles, and I knew it was going to be difficult to get (the record) that night,” Johnson said before Monday’s game.
He finished with two tackles against the Broncos.
Johnson was the Chiefs’ first-round draft selection, 15th overall, in 2005 — the same draft that produced Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith at No. 1 with the 49ers and Rodgers at No. 24. Johnson started from the outset, but in 2009, he went to the bench, starting three times in 15 games.
That season ended with perhaps the best game of his career, when he returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a victory at Denver.
Starting in 2011, Johnson made three straight Pro Bowl appearances, and in 2011 was selected first-team All-Pro by The Associated Press.
The honors now include a position among the best players in franchise history, at least statistically, although tackles are not an official NFL statistic.
Tackle statistics are kept by the home team’s stats crew and, unlike interceptions or fumble recoveries, can be a judgment call and sometimes changed after film review by coaches.
That happened on Monday. It appeared Johnson would be given an assist on a tackle early in the second quarter. But the Packers’ statistics crew didn’t credit him, and the chase continued.
The Chiefs started keeping tackle stats in 1977, and they’re part of the team’s record book. Johnson holds the season record with 179 in 2011.
The career mark is his now, too.