ST. LOUIS – Dontae Johnson didn't even get to fully celebrate his first career interception for the San Francisco 49ers.
That's because his defensive teammates mobbed him in the end zone after his game-clinching 20-yard interception return to help the 49ers defeat the St. Louis Rams, 31-17, on Monday night.
With starting nickel back Jimmie Ward out of action due to a quadriceps injury, Johnson entered the game in the fourth quarter as San Francisco's dime defensive back. Soon after, with the Rams in hurry-up mode and trailing by seven points, Johnson struck.
"Every week I come (to work) like I'm a starter," Johnson said. "Granted, I have tremendous guys in front of me that are playing well right now. You just have to be ready as the next man up."
The rookie broke on a short pass from St. Louis quarterback Austin Davis and had plenty of real estate down the left side of the field after defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie cleared Davis out of the way.
The Rams failed to tackle Johnson during his 20-yard return to the end zone, but 49ers cornerback Chris Cook was the one who brought Johnson down in comedic fashion.
Cook's piggy-back takedown also interrupted Johnson's first-ever touchdown celebration. It appeared as though the fourth-round draft pick out of North Carolina State was demonstrating the popular "Shmoney" dance. But this reporter was corrected after San Francisco improved to 4-2 on the year and 1-1 in the NFC West.
"No," said Johnson, "that was not a 'Shmoney' dance. It was just something that I had in my back pocket for my first career pick.
"I'm very fortunate enough that it turned into six. I just had to enjoy myself, enjoy the moment."
Indeed, Johnson's touchdown was quite the moment. He became the seventh rookie in team history to score a touchdown on his first interception, and is the first to accomplish this feat since Jason Webster returned a 70-yard touchdown on Nov. 19, 2000.
The contributions of Johnson - and rookie linebacker Chris Borland, who filled in for Joe Staley - were not lost on Jim Harbaugh.
Both rookies played vital roles in San Francisco's fourth quarter effort against St. Louis.
"It was a hard, tough win on the road, division opponent that really came after us," the coach said. "We had some mistakes early, some adversity early. But our guys showed championship character, I thought. Really proud of the way they stepped up."
Johnson's performance was also recognized by Pepsi. He is one of five rookies up for the NFL's weekly Rookie of the Week honors.
Fans can vote HERE through Friday at noon P.T. to help Johnson win the weekly award.
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