The Kansas City Chiefs continued their shocking turnaround season by beating the Tennessee Titans, 26-17, on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Nashville, Tenn. The win keeps the Chiefs at a perfect 5-0 record and as one of only three unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL. The New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos are the other two perfect teams.
Had you polled experts before the season, there’s no doubt the Broncos would have gotten plenty of votes for being unbeaten after five weeks, and the Saints with their own high-powered offense would have garnered some votes. But the Chiefs coming off a 2-14 season??? No way.
"We are 5-0, and we're not ashamed of that," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said afterwards. "We also know that we've got a ton of room to improve and it's important that we continue to do that."
The Chiefs are off to their best start since 2003, when they won their first nine games. This victory was butt-ugly in some ways and breathtakingly beautiful in others – and that goes for each unit on the team: offense, defense, and special teams.
- OFFENSE: Other than Jamaal Charles (108 yds rushing, 37 yds receiving, 1 TD) no one on offense had a good day. QB Alex Smith easily had his worst day as a Chief, and threw another interception, but could have thrown at least three more. However, four or five times during the game, he made a crucial throw that made coaches and fans forgive him for the bad throws. And, as he has done in the two previous wins, he helped choke the life out of the game clock in the fourth quarter to preserve the win.
- DEFENSE: As good as could be in the first half and relentlessly harassing Titans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and made a signature goal line stand in the 2nd quarter, keeping the Titans from scoring after they had a first and goal at the 1-yard line. However, the defense seemingly stayed in the locker room after halftime as Fitzpatrick and the Titans went wild in the third quarter. The defense coughed up the 13-0 lead, allowing Tennessee to go ahead 17-13 early in the fourth quarter. And yet, in the fourth quarter, the defense made several plays to take the ball away from the Titans and hold them scoreless, allowing the offense to win the game.
- SPECIAL TEAMS: This unit scored ANOTHER touchdown when they recovered a muffed punt return in the end zone, giving the Chiefs a 7-0 lead before the Titans had run an offensive play. Kicker Ryan Succop was the star or the game as he was perfect throughout the game, making all four of his field goal attempts. But except for Succop, the special teams played sloppy football in the second half and Dustin Colquitt shanked a 9-yard punt early in the fourth quarter right after the Titans had taken control of the game.
However, despite the ugly nature of parts of this game, the Chiefs did enough to win their third road game of the season and coming out on top in this critical AFC showdown between two surprising teams bouncing back after losing seasons. Should the Chiefs find themselves in a wild card situation for a playoff berth, head-to-head wins is the first tie-breaker.
Yes, Chiefs fans … you must start thinking about playoff scenarios now because your team is 5-0. Just say it slowly to yourself over and over, “Five and ohhhhhhh!” Jamaal Charles knows how thankful the team is to be in this situation.
"I am speechless right now," Charles said. "This team is very blessed to be 5-0 right now. Nobody expected us to be 5-0."
The Titans (3-2) couldn't have been more out of tune in the first half with Fitzpatrick starting for the injured Jake Locker. Fitzpatrick missed his first five passes badly and went three-and-out on his first five series before coming to life and guiding Tennessee to 17 straight points in the second half.
But Jamaal Charles was having none of that as he put the Chiefs ahead to stay 20-17 in the 4th quarter. He finished with 50 of his rushing yards coming in the final frame on 11 carries. The Chiefs also intercepted Fitzpatrick twice in the final 6:14. Succop kicked his fourth field goal to put the game out of reach, a 48-yarder in the rain that perfectly split the uprights.
The Titans made one last try for a win, needing to score twice in the final few seconds with the Chiefs ahead 26-17. Titans’ coach Mike Munchak inexplicably went for a field goal with two seconds left in the game and sent kicker Rob Bironas out for a 32-yard field goal. But Bironas missed wide right, and time expired.
"The bottom line is we found a way back into that game and had an opportunity to go up by more than four and we didn't do that," Munchak said.
Possibly because of Nashville’s proximity to Kansas City, and undoubtedly because of the Missouri Tigers game Saturday against local school, Vanderbilt, the Chiefs had plenty of fan support on the road at LP Stadium. The stands were filled with red-clad Chiefs fans and they made their presence felt even before the game started.
When the final notes of a gorgeous rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” sung by country music stars Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan came, Chiefs fans filled the stadium with their signature, “ … and the home of the … CHIEFS!!” roar that happens every game at Arrowhead.
"I thought the fans controlled that lower bowl there and we heard them and we appreciate all that support that they were able to give us, especially down the stretch there," Reid said.
Kansas City dominated early with a 132-10 edge in total offense in the first quarter and was up 13-0 at halftime on a rainy day in Nashville. The goal-line stand also proved huge as the Chiefs not only stopped the Titans four times from their own 1 but drove to the other end of the field for another field goal to go up 13-0.
But Fitzpatrick outgained the Chiefs all by himself in the third quarter in keying the Titans' rally. He flipped the ball to running back Chris Johnson on a broken play just before getting sacked for a 49-yard TD. He also scrambled 9 yards for a TD, giving the Titans their only lead of the game at 17-13.
"We had to gear down and somebody had to make a play, stop the snowball from rolling downhill, and we did," Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said.
Chief-haters will be in full-whine mode over a critical call by the referees that keyed the Chiefs game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. The drive was extended by an unnecessary roughness flag on Titans linebacker Moise Fokou for hitting Alex Smith as the quarterback scrambled out of the pocket on third-and-5. Smith only picked up 2 yards and was hit at the sideline, and the flag gave the Chiefs first down.
"If you're not sliding, to me, you're not giving yourself up," Munchak said of Smith. "He wasn't sliding."
No word from Munchak on the phantom pass interference call on Chiefs safety Eric Berry just a few minutes earlier that keyed the Titans last scoring drive. The refs flagged Berry after he knocked a third-and-8 pass away from tight end Delanie Walker at the Chiefs 25-yard line. Replays showed “contact” that wouldn’t have hurt an 8-year old kid.
However, new KC fan favorite, rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper, wrestled the ball away from Nate Washington with 6:14 left, and Quintin Demps picked off a pass that bounced off Titans receiver Kendall Wright with 2:39 left. Succop kicked field goals of 33 and 48 yards after each to pad the Chiefs lead.
Cooper put the Chiefs up 7-0 when he recovered the muffed punt in the end zone after the ball brushed up against Titans blocker Damian Williams before dribbling to the end zone. It was Tennessee’s first turnover of the season and it was costly.
So now the Chiefs head home to begin a three game home stand that could virtually assure them of a playoff spot. The league statisticians have noted that 90% of the teams that achieve a 5-0 record make the playoffs. First up are the Oakland Raiders, who have won six straight games at Arrowhead. Once again, Chiefs fans, if work or school gets to be too much this week, close your eyes and repeat the mantra, “Five and ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
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