Chiefs turn up volume on defense, block out Jets

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Here's a switch: The Kansas City defense
is apologizing for being imperfect, not for being awful.

The Chiefs' revamped defense -- the product of a busy,
wheeling-and-dealing offseason -- came within 29 seconds of handing
the New York Jets their first shutout in almost 10 years.

A 27-7 victory Sunday over the mistake-prone Jets proved a major
pick-me-up for a defense which the past three years has never
finished higher than 29th.

"We really wanted that shutout at the end. I know our fans did,
too," said defensive end Eric Hicks, who blocked a field goal
attempt when rookie Mike Nugent slipped. "I'm sorry we couldn't
get it for them."

Kansas City started fast on offense, too -- Larry Johnson rushed
for 110 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries and Priest Holmes
added 85 yards and a touchdown.

Spurred on by newcomers like Sammy Knight, Patrick Surtain and
Derrick Johnson, the new-look defense forced seven fumbles and
recovered two. Chad Pennington was sacked three times and
intercepted once.

Curtis Martin was held to 57 yards on 20 carries -- 139 fewer
than he had in last year's season opener against Cincinnati en
route to the NFL rushing title.

"There's nothing like having talent," said head coach Dick
Vermeil. "Our draft and free agency were good, and then the
maturity of the kids that were already here blended together.
Talented athletes make more tackles than average athletes."

Backup Jay Fiedler enabled the Jets to avoid their first shutout
since Dec. 24, 1995, when he hit Chris Baker on a 23-yard touchdown
pass with 29 seconds to go.

"I wish we could have made more of a game of it, but it
wasn't," said Jets coach Herman Edwards. "They took us behind the
woodshed and whupped us."

On their first three possessions, the Chiefs had touchdown
drives of 75 and 95 yards and a 41-yard field goal. Holmes had a
35-yard run on the first drive, then Johnson, who is challenging
him for playing time, finished it off with a 35-yard dash into the
end zone.

"Willie Roaf pulled and that's all it is," said Johnson, who
marked his sixth consecutive game with two or more TDs. "You've
got two linemen out there and not too many (defensive backs) can
stand their ground against two linemen."

Roaf, the Chiefs' 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle, later went out
with what Vermeil said was a hamstring injury. By the end of the
half, defensive tackle Ryan Sims was out with a foot injury and
Surtain was on the sideline with a concussion following a 53-yard
interception return. Pro Bowl fullback Tony Richardson also left
the game with a mild knee sprain.

"Hopefully the guys we lost today will be back soon and be back
at full strength," Vermeil said. "We probably won't have (Roaf)
for next week."

Pennington, coming off shoulder surgery, also had several passes
dropped, including one by Laveranues Coles that might have gone for
a touchdown in the second half.

"The opportunity was there to get the momentum going in our
favor, and I pretty much let the team down," Coles said. "I just
have to go back to work this week and try to make up for it."

Johnson also had 54 yards on five runs in a 66-yard march that
made it 27-0 on the first play of the fourth quarter. His 23-yard
run put the ball on the 4, and he took it in on the next play.

The Jets were hurt by more kicking woes, bringing back bad
memories of the two missed field goals in a three-point loss to
Pittsburgh in last year's playoffs. Nugent, drafted in the second
round out of Ohio State, slipped while attempting a 28-yard field
goal and Hicks blocked the low-trajectory ball.

Trent Green, who underwent vascular surgery on his left leg on
Aug. 30, connected on his first eight passes but wound up just
15-for-26 for 200 yards. Pennington was 21-for-34 for 264 yards.

Holmes scored on a 3-yard run on the Chiefs' second possession,
a 95-yard drive on which Green completed all six of his passes for
87 yards. Lawrence Tynes added field goals of 41 and 38 yards for
the Chiefs, both coming after Jets fumbles.
^Notes:@ The Chiefs held a moment of silence before the game for
former coach Hank Stram and former punter Jerrel Wilson, who died
during the offseason. ... The Chiefs will wear a decal bearing
Stram's initials on their helmets. ... Former Australian Football
League star Ben Graham, 31, the oldest rookie ever to start an NFL
season, punted three times for a 44.3-yard average. The Jets lost
their seventh straight road game in which they had an even or
negative turnover ratio.


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