Chiefs Find New Identity?

Kansas City wanted to feature running back Larry Johnson, but when the Vikings took him away, the Chiefs countered by passing effectively to their biggest targets in the second half.

The Chiefs may have found an offensive identity that does not revolve around running back Larry Johnson.

Kansas City began its comeback from a 10-3 halftime deficit in its 13-10 home-opener victory against Minnesota by consistently throwing to its biggest targets, Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez and rookie Dwayne Bowe.

It's an approach the Chiefs must keep in mind when they go back on the road for the third time in four weeks Sunday in San Diego.

With Johnson held to only 42 rushing yards by the NFL's top rushing defense of 2006, Kansas City quarterback Duane Huard opened the third quarter against Minnesota with a series of go-up-and-get-it throws to the 6-foot-5 Gonzalez and the 6-2 Bowe, who pulled in the game-winning touchdown on a 16-yard jump-ball throw to the end zone in the fourth quarter.

"It's like you do at recess - this guy is bigger than that guy, so throw it up in the air and let him go get it," Gonzalez said of the offensive approach that finally worked. "It makes all the sense in the world to me.

"You can't complicate this game too much," he added. "When you start thinking too much you get tight and frustrated like we were at halftime."

Against a Chargers run defense that is nearly as stingy as that of the Vikings, the Chiefs probably can't expect to pound Johnson as effectively as they did in 2006 when he ran for 1,750 yards - his second such campaign in as many seasons.

In three games this year, Johnson has managed only 140 yards on 50 carries, a mere 2.8-yard average. He was unable to manage as much as two yards a try in running for only 25 yards on 13 carries in the first half against Green Bay.

But with Huard finding Gonzalez running through the middle of defenses, or Bowe grabbing contested balls out of a crowd, the Chiefs seem to have found a new dimension of an offense that had few such dimensions in its first two losses, both on the road.

That was especially true with Bowe, who had his biggest game in three NFL starts with a five-catch, 71-yard effort despite not having a ball thrown his way until the third quarter.

"It's great seeing him come out of his shell the last two weeks, because we need him," Huard said. "If teams are going to stack eight guys in there to stop the run, we need him and Tony to make the plays they did in the second half."

The Chiefs know they'll see more eight-man fronts in San Diego, so the ability to throw becomes paramount.

They'll also need a little defensive luck like they had against Minnesota, which could easily have been leading 21-3 at halftime.

Minnesota replacement starter Kelly Holcomb overthrew a wide open Robert Ferguson running unmolested behind the Chiefs defense just before halftime. A fullback option throw from Mewelde Moore to Visanthe Shiancoe was ruled incomplete even as it appeared otherwise. The replay review was too inconclusive to overturn the on-field call.


  • DE Jared Allen returned from his two-game NFL suspension to record two sacks, two pass deflections and a forced fumble in the 13-10 victory over Minnesota. Allen had back-to-back strips in the second quarter, but his first was wiped out when Adrian Peterson was ruled down.

  • QB Damon Huard had his first triple-digit passer rating (100.6) against Minnesota when he completed 20 of 29 passes for 206 yards with one touchdown (to Dwayne Bowe) and no interceptions against Minnesota.

  • DE Tamba Hali had a two-sack day against Minnesota as his left side edge rush was the beneficiary of DE Jared Allen's return to the right end spot.

  • LB Derrick Johnson had one of his best days against Minnesota with 10 tackles, three of them in the Vikings backfield.

  • K Dave Rayner had field goals of 39 and 49 yards in his first Arrowhead appearance as the Chiefs kicker.

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