AFC West: 2013 Week 5 KAN at TEN

ChiefsAP Photo/Wade PayneKansas City scored the final 13 points Sunday -- all in the fourth quarter -- to remain unbeaten.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Just as the postgame celebration was in full swing in the Kansas City Chiefs’ locker room, it hit a momentary lull. Guard Jeff Allen punctuated the brief silence by saying, to no one in particular, "We own the fourth quarter."

Nobody can dispute it. The Chiefs have built their 5-0 record by dominating in the fourth quarter, and that was certainly true in Sunday’s 26-17 win over the Tennessee Titans, in which Kansas City scored the game’s final 13 points.

In the first four games, the fourth quarter was about protecting a lead. This time, it was about overcoming a deficit. The Chiefs had no reason to believe they would, not after the offense sputtered to just two field goals in the first three periods, and certainly not after quarterback Alex Smith threw a horrible interception in the third quarter that the Titans converted into their go-ahead touchdown.

The Chiefs had owned the fourth quarter before, but this one looked like it would belong to their opponent. Mainly through force of will, perhaps forged through those other successful fourth quarters, the Chiefs dug themselves from the muck.

Smith led the Chiefs on a touchdown drive to put the team back on top, and then the defense intercepted a pair of passes to snuff Tennessee’s comeback hopes.

It started with the gritty touchdown drive. Smith, fresh off his interception, completed his final five passes on the possession. The Titans helped with a pair of penalties, including a questionable late hit on Smith that allowed the Chiefs to continue the drive.

Asked how he could have, at that point, believed in his offense, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “The eyes I’m looking into are positive eyes. Alex, he wants the ball back. He knows it’s just a matter of time before it kicks in. The offensive line was that way. Dwayne Bowe was constant energy throughout the game.

"That was my picture. That’s what I was looking at."

It can be easy to forget now, with the Chiefs being one of just three remaining unbeaten teams, but their offense achieved little the past two seasons, and while Reid has set a positive tone, Smith is the only significant new playing piece.

So much of this newfound will comes from their quarterback. This was the first time since joining the Chiefs that he had the outcome of a game resting with him, and everyone was more than a little curious to see how he would handle the situation.

"The players are all looking at him," Reid said. “They’re looking at him every snap. That’s their leader out there, and so if you’re wavering at all or you don’t have the right look in your eye, these guys can sense that. They can tell. So how you present yourself is huge.

"He’s a tenacious competitor, that kid. I love that. I love that part of him."

Smith is hardly a rookie. He’d been in such situations when he was the starter for the San Francisco 49ers. He had a history of leading his team from behind in the fourth quarter, having done it six times in 2011.

"You get in those situations enough as a quarterback," Smith said. “I feel like I have played in a lot of tight games over the years, and with eight minutes or 10 minutes left in the fourth, you don’t press. You just kind of focus in that much more, and you bring the guys in that much more and you know you’re only one play away."

This was the first time he had tried it with the Chiefs. In front of a large and loud Tennessee crowd, they made it work. That will count for a lot the next time the Chiefs are confronted with a similar situation.

"No question it helps," Smith said. "This was a first for us this year: being down in the fourth quarter and having to have a game-winning drive, and we were able to put it together. These are great experiences to have, especially being together for the first time. Great experiences to build on."

The Chiefs appear headed for many new experiences. With five wins, they’ve already topped their total in four of the previous six seasons. Their 5-0 start is second best in club history, behind a 9-0 start in 2003.

More importantly, by rallying Sunday, they set themselves up to continue their run. They will play their next three games at Arrowhead Stadium, against the Raiders, Texans and Browns before they head to Buffalo to face the Bills.

It’s not unreasonable to think they could be 9-0 in mid-November when they travel to Denver for their first of two meetings with the Broncos.

If they get to that point, it would undoubtedly be due to their ability to close games with a flourish.

"That’s the time of the game where the team that’s mentally tough wins the game," Allen said. "Everybody’s tired, but you’ve got to push through. We’ve got guys on this team who do a great job of finishing games. Usually, it’s the team that finishes that wins."

Locker Room Buzz: Kansas City Chiefs

October, 6, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Observed in the locker room after the Kansas City Chiefs' 26-17 win over the Tennessee Titans:

One of the last unbeatens: At the time their game concluded, the Chiefs were one of just two 5-0 teams, the New Orleans Saints being the other. The day could end that way depending on how the Broncos fare against the Cowboys. That didn’t escape their attention. “I don’t want to stop,’’ running back Jamaal Charles said. “I want to keep going. I’ve never been 5-0 in my NFL career.’’

Succop’s big day: Ryan Succop made all four of his field goal attempts, including a 48-yarder on a wet field for the game’s final points. Succop is 9-of-9 this season inside of 50 yards and 1-of-3 beyond.

Injuries: Starting wide receiver Donnie Avery, who had two catches of more than 40 yards, had difficulty raising his arm afterward. He was injured late in the first half and returned for a handful of plays in the third quarter. X-rays were negative and the Chiefs called the injury a bruised shoulder.

Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

October, 6, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A few thoughts on the Kansas City Chiefs' 26-17 win over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field:

What it means: The Chiefs, after leading 13-0 at halftime, survived, but only after a frantic fourth-quarter touchdown drive that was aided by a questionable late-hit penalty against the Titans. Until then, they were miserable in the second half, a collapse so steep that it’s logical to wonder whether the Chiefs were good in the first place. The Chiefs had everything going for them in a lopsided first half but had trouble holding off the Titans, who were playing without injured starting quarterback Jake Locker.

Stock watch: Quarterback Alex Smith had by far his worst game of the season -- throwing a horrible pass in the third quarter that was intercepted. The Titans then went on to score the go-ahead touchdown off the turnover. Smith went on to lead a big fourth-quarter touchdown drive that put the Chiefs ahead for good. Wide receiver Donnie Avery had two big catches of 40-plus yards. Rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper scored a touchdown when he recovered a fumbled punt in the end zone and later had a fourth-quarter interception. Ryan Succop made all of his four field goal attempts, including a 48-yarder with 2:12 to go that put the Chiefs ahead 26-17.

Defensive collapse: The Chiefs allowed the Titans and backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick 153 yards in a dismal third quarter. The Titans climbed to within 13-10 by the end of the period. The Chiefs redeemed themselves with a goal-line stand that featured four plays from the Kansas City 1. They also intercepted Fitzpatrick twice in the fourth quarter.

What’s next: The Chiefs begin a three-game homestand next Sunday when they play the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have beaten the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in each of the past six seasons.



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