After a much maligned defensive performance a week ago against the New York Giants. The Chiefs starting unit manhandled the Rams offensive attack. St. Louis Quarterback Mark Bulger looked uncomfortable from the start. Unlike last week the Chiefs defense didn't lay back. They blitzed, attacked and created havoc for the Rams signal caller.
On the Rams first possession of the game, Bulger only managed one first down as the Chiefs defense stiffened. On the ensuing series, the Chiefs offense laid claim to the fact they appear ready for the start of the regular season. Trent Green led the Chiefs on a brilliant 76-yard, 10-play drive culminating in a 2-yard dive from Priest Holmes that gave Kansas City a 7-0 lead.
Marc Boerigter making his first start of the pre-season had the key catch in the drive when he sprang open for a 21-yard gain. Boerigter showed a fluency in his routes that was missing in 2003. With the injuries to Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton, the Chiefs need Boerigter to return to his 2002 form.
On consecutive possessions, the Chiefs and Rams were both unable to move the ball. But in the second quarter, Kansas City cranked up their version of the ‘Best Show on Turf' and marched back into the end zone.
Green continued his hot hand as he connected on three straight passes to Dante Hall. Back-up running back Derrick Blaylock carried the bulk of the work on the drive as he scored from 1-yard out giving the Chiefs a 14-0 lead.
After the Chiefs defense held the Rams to three and out, Kansas City turned to back up quarterback Todd Collins who relieved Trent Green. The Chiefs starter finished up his night hitting 10 of 12 passes for 94 yards. Collins for the most part struggled but he did manage to engineer a penalty aided drive that led to a 28-yard field goal by Morten Andersen. The Chiefs soon to be 44-year old kicker was limited to field goals and extra points. Lawrence Tynes handled all the kick-off duties.
The Chiefs looked like a confident bunch on both sides of the ball and they finally made a big defensive play late in the half that put the game out of reach. With the Rams, moving into Chiefs territory thanks to a personal foul by Chiefs cornerback Eric Warfield, Bulger tried to connect a short pass to wide receiver Tory Holt. But linebacker Shawn Barber cut in front of the Rams receiver and raced untouched into the end zone for a 60-yard interception return that gave the Chiefs a 24-0 halftime lead.
It was good to see the Chiefs defense be aggressive and Barber who had a fabulous 2003 season despite multiple injuries; took pride not only with the interception but with the Chiefs entire defensive performance.
"I was in the right place at the right time," said Barber. "We were just trying to play the whole field and be very aggressive. Sometime you can put the quarterback in an awkward position and he thinks things are open that aren't open. I was able to read the quarterback on that play. The defensive line gave tremendous pressure and that had more to do with it (the interception) than anything. It was a total team effort."
One spectator who was glad to see the Chiefs defense perform at such a high level was starting quarterback Trent Green.
"They did a heck of a job and I think people saw our defense flying around the ball. We put some pressure on Mark (Bulger) and forced him to throw where Shawn (Barber) go it. He's seen that play a few times in practice with us running a similar offense. Shawn read it and was able to step in front. It was nice to see them (the defense) all respond."
In the second half, the Chiefs offense was generally ineffective as Collins was unable to move the ball. But the inability to get first downs had nothing to do with Collins as the Chiefs back-up offensive line was unable to prevent the Rams defense from putting pressure on Collins. He took a pounding.
With the modest success of the defense, the Rams offense managed to show signs of life in the third quarter as journeyman quarterback Chris Chandler led St. Louis to its first points of the game. Using the clock and short passes, the injury prone quarterback picked apart the Chiefs back-up secondary. The six minute drive culminated in a 6-yard touchdown run by rookie running back Steven Jackson.
Kansas City's defense actually had the Rams drive stopped dead in its tracks after Eric Downing recovered a fumble when rookie linebacker Keyaron Fox, coming on a blitz, dropped Chandler for a loss on third down. But second year cornerback Julian Battle was called for illegal contact and the Rams drive received a much needed reprieve. They took advantage of the Chiefs lack of defensive depth and experience as they scored their only points of the game.
Still despite the problems of the back ups in the second half; Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil was very pleased with both sides of the ball on Monday Night; especially the defense.
"We're very happy to see that we shut out a very good defensive football team in the first half. They played in the NFC Championship last year. So I'm very pleased with our defense," said the Chiefs coach.
"We've made some progress but I think the defensive line was dominating. Going in we wanted to find out where we are and define what we need to work on. The defense played with a lot of enthusiasm. It was great for Gun and I gave him the game ball. Yes I know its a pre-season game but its a tribute to a guy coming back and making a real nice contribution going in the right direction."
For the Chiefs as a team, they accomplished two goals in their exibition victory over the Rams. They continued to showcase their high powered offense and the defense despite the Rams struggles along the offensive line, showed a flair for making the big play. They prevented the Rams offense from scoring any points and that's great news for the confidence of the Chiefs defense.
But more importantly the defense didn't give up a big play and that's a welcome change for a defense that gave up more than its fair share the last two seasons.
"I could feel it coming on the practice field. I could see the execution within our schemes better and the intesity with which we worked. You could really see it coming," Vermeil repeated. "You really could all week. I'm not surprised."
Game Notes: (BR) The Chiefs cut down on the number of penalties from a week ago when they surpassed double-digit yellow flags last Friday in New York. Against the Rams on Monday Night, they had only eight penalties with the special teams contributing most of the infractions. The unit continues to make silly penalties on both punt and kick-off returns.
The Chiefs three quarterbacks were a combined 20 of 26 agains the Rams. Green hit 10 0f 12 passes. Todd Collins hit eight of 11 and third stringer Casey Clausen completed two of three of his pass attempts.
Defensive end R-Kal Truluck had a strong game. He had one sack, caused a fumble and made several stops in the backfield thwarting the Rams rushing attack. The Chiefs need Truluck to continue making those kinds of plays as they search for depth at defensive end. Gary Stills also had a sack on Monday Night as he continues to shine in Cunningham's defensive schemes.
Rookie defensive end Jared Allen also continued his impressive play. He had another sack, giving him two thus far in the exibition season and he continued to show a nose for the football as he had a couple of tackles.
It was interesting to note that Derrick Blaylock played with the Chiefs starting offensive unit in the first and second quarter and not second year back Larry Johnson. Blaylock in a battle for playing time and the right to play behind Priest Holmes; scored a touchdown and led the Chiefs in rushing with 32 yards on nine carries. Johnson, who had one long run for 14 yards, finished the game with 31 yards on eight carries.
In two exibition games this year, the Rams offense has only managed to score 10 points on offense. Bulger continues to struggle being the main man in the Rams offense. Bulger was only eight of 15 for 67 yards. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket and had a hard time hitting open receivers. The Chiefs defense had something to do with that. On Barber's interception and touchdown run, Bulger simply threw a ball that had no business being thrown. He should have taken a sack or thrown the ball away.
After the game, Rams head coach Mike Martz told the media that this game was on him. "We did a very poor job getting this football team ready to play this pre-season. I own this one. It's my fault as the head coach. We aclted like we didn't know where we were and that's a coaching issue. Some blame the players, but this is my responsibility."
Next up for the Chiefs is a Saturday Night contest against the Cleveland Browns. The Chiefs players will have tomorrow off and get back on the practice field on Wednesday afternoon.