Chiefs Tested In The Desert

Erasing a large deficit on the road in a raucous environment proved to be the perfect character test for a team still looking to establish themselves as a playoff contender. On a day when running lanes were once again hard to come by and the injury bug would bite again, the Chiefs dug deep and were able to find just enough in the arsenal to emerge victorious in the desert.

Any NFL road win is a good win, but for the Chiefs to spot the home team two touchdowns less than 10 minutes into the game and still find the fortitude to claw their way to victory is nothing short of miraculous.

Coming off a 41-0 beat down of the 49ers, the Chiefs entered Sunday's game against Arizona knowing they still had the ability to put on the afterburners and scorch opponents. After running on fumes for much of the first three quarters, the Chiefs finally were able to make enough big plays to overpower the pesky Cardinals, led by rookie Matt Leinart. Three of those plays came in succession in the fourth quarter, save a Cardinal punt.

After Leinart moved Arizona to KC's 36 yard-line late in the fourth quarter, it seemed at that point the only question was how much time was going to be left for the Chiefs to either tie the game or win it with a touchdown. The defense then sacked up, literally. On the next play, Leinart escaped a rush by Jared Allen and scrambled out to his left only to be ankle-tackled by Kendrell Bell for an eight-yard loss. His best play as a member of the Chiefs, Bell showed a burst of speed and pursuit reminiscent of his Pro-Bowl days with Pittsburgh.

Now facing a third-and-13 from the Kansas City 44, Leinart looked to Boldin once again on the left sideline. Boldin appeared to have the ball in his grasp but lost control of it when he was jarred by Greg Wesley. It was one of those hits that the safeties in years past wouldn't have been in position to make, which is another testament to the growth and success of this defense.

Following a punt to Eddie Kennison, the Chiefs found themselves at their own 13 yard-line with 2:31 to go and the game knotted at 20. Mike Solari then went to the bread and butter of years past and called a screen pass to Larry Johnson, who rumbled 78 yards to the Arizona nine, setting up the game-winning field goal. Johnson spent the remainder of the game trying screw his head back on after a vicious facemask by Antrel Rolle.

It was a game the Chiefs really had no business winning for several reasons. They sat in the starting blocks as the gun sounded, allowing Arizona to get off to a blistering start. They lost the turnover battle. They couldn't get Tony Gonzalez involved. They dropped several passes and the ground game was anemic, averaging only 1.8 yards per rush.

Amid all that negativity, the Chiefs never panicked on offense. They continued to run the ball, even though running lanes were nonexistent, forcing the Cardinals to stay honest on defense and not commit entirely to the passing game. This allowed Huard to make enough plays on second and third down for the Chiefs to keep the Cardinal offense off the field. The time of possession battle was 29 seconds away from being a dead heat.

Even though they gave up two quick touchdowns, it was the defense that gave the Chiefs the opportunity to come back and win this game. Two sacks and a blocked punt on a Cardinal drive late in the first half seemed to be the catalyst and set the tone for the rest of the game. In the second half the Cardinals had the ball five times in Chief territory but only managed three points. That is the epitome of a "bend but don't break" defense. Time after time in the second half on Sunday, the defense made plays when they absolutely had to. That is a sign of a good football team.

While this may have been one of the uglier wins in recent memory, winning in this fashion goes a long way to boosting a team's morale. Sure, winning a game 41-0 at home is promising, but that kind of dominance week in and week out is unrealistic. Conversely, close games are going to be far more prevalent and the true tests come when teams are put in high pressure situations. On this day, the Chiefs passed their test. The next exam will be a much tougher one in the confines of Pittsburgh.

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