Chiefs rally in fourth, continue perfection

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – An improbable run to 5-0 carried on after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Titans, 26-17.

The Chiefs become the first team in NFL history to start the season 5-0 coming off a season with two or less wins. Kansas City is also off to its best start since the 2003 season.

“We are 5-0 and we’re not ashamed of that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters during his postgame media session. “But we also know we have a ton of room to improve and it’s important that we continue to do that.”

Oct 6, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Cooper (31) intercepts a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington (85) during the second half at LP Field. The Chiefs won 26-17. Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 6, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Cooper (31) intercepts a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington (85) during the second half at LP Field. The Chiefs won 26-17. Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t always pretty on Sunday, as both defenses played hard-nose, physical football.

The Chiefs got on the board first after cornerback Marcus Cooper recovered a muffed punt in the end zone.

Kansas City held a 13-0 halftime lead and limited the Titans (3-2) to 83 total yards in the first half, highlighted by stuffing the Titans inside the 1-yard line on a fourth-and-goal.

“Defense, huge goal-line stand, big swing there,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith told reporters during his postgame media session. “It could’ve been even bigger if we could’ve finished that drive off by scoring a touchdown, but that’s a 10-point swing. Defense holding, and then us moving all the way down and getting a field goal right before half, so big, big shift in the game there.”

The Titans had five straight three-and-out possessions to start the game with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started in place of Jake Locker (hip).

However, Fitzpatrick and the Titans offense woke up to start the second half, scoring on three straight possession to take a 17-13 lead. The Titans totaled 153 yards in the third quarter and got on the board on a Fitzpatrick to running back Chris Johnson 49-yard scoring play.

Fitzpatrick capped off the scoring by converting a third-and-goal from the 9-yard line into a touchdown scramble to start the fourth quarter. The possession started after former Chief, current Titans safety Bernard Pollard picked off quarterback Alex Smith.

But the Chiefs didn’t panic and turned to a dependable weapon.

Running back Jamaal Charles, who has been stellar in a closer role, put the Chiefs ahead, 20-17, following a 1-yard touchdown run. He finished the game with 108 yards rushing on 22 carries, marking the first time this season he’s eclipsed the 100-yard barrier. Charles also chipped in with five catches for 37 yards.

“Jamaal down the stretch there, he’s a tough kid,” Reid told reporters. “He willed his way through there along with the offensive line in that fourth quarter.”

The Chiefs have thrived on clock-consuming drives late in the game, and used a 10-play, 66-yard drive on Charles’ score. The series consumed 5:05 off the clock, leaving more than six minutes on the clock.

Still, there was some controversy on the drive as it was kept alive on a 15-yard penalty on Titans linebacker Moises Fokou for a late hit out of bounds on Smith.

On third-and-5, Smith had scrambled for an apparent 2-yard gain, coming up short for the first down. However, the penalty kept the drive alive, leading to Charles’ touchdown.

Smith finished the game completing 20-of-39 passes for 245 yards and an interception.

With the game still in doubt late in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs relied on another formula that has anchored them through the first four games – the defense.

Cooper stepped up first with an interception off Fitzpatrick by ripping the ball from wide receiver Nate Washington as they fell to the ground. The Chiefs capitalized by turning it into a 33-yard field goal by Ryan Succop.

On the ensuing possession, safety Quintin Demps picked off a Fitzpatrick pass intended for wide receiver Kendall Wright. The Chiefs capped off that possession on Succop’s fourth field goal of the game, this one coming from 48 yards.

“This is a first for us this year, being down in the fourth quarter having to have a game-winning drive and we were able to put it together,” Smith said. “The defense sealed the deal along with special teams with the field goals. These are great experiences to have, especially being together for the first time on offense, great experiences to build on.”

Kansas City’s defense finished the game with three turnovers and three sacks, the latter pushing the season total to 21. The team finished with 27 sacks for the entire 2012 season.

The Chiefs return to Kansas City to host the Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns for three straight home games at Arrowhead Stadium.

Notes: Chiefs wide receiver Donnie Avery suffered a right shoulder injury and did not finish the game … Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters after the game Avery suffered a “shoulder contusion,” adding “X-rays were negative” … Running back Jamaal Charles is now third in franchise history in career yards rushing (4,933), overtaking Christian Okoye, who has 4,897 yards … Reid, previously winless against the Titans, has now recorded at least one victory against every NFL team.