Chiefs 24, Rams 7
Monday, August 23, 2004


By Nick Wagoner
Staff Writer


KANSAS CITY-It was a night of varying news for St. Louis against the Chiefs on Monday. The bad news was the final score: 24-7. Kansas City dominated the first half; outgaining St. Louis 200-68 on its way to defending the Governor’s Cup it won in 2003. The loss dropped the Rams to 0-2 in the preseason. The Chiefs improved to 1-1.

Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil said he was pleased with the performance of his starters on both sides of the ball. “We’re very happy to see that we shut out a very good offensive football team in the first half,” Vermeil said. “I thought our offense for the most part did an excellent job. We’re playing very good football right now.”

On the other side, Rams’ coach Mike Martz took the blame for his team’s performance. “I did a very poor job of getting this football team ready to play this preseason game,” Martz said. “I own this one. We came out here and flopped around and acted like we didn’t know where we were and that’s a coaching issue. Always is, always will be.”

The good news was the return to health of one of the Rams’ most promising young receivers. However, things reached a low early in the first half. While Curtis was returning to form, one of the Rams’ top performers last season was going in the opposite direction. The worst news of the night came midway through the second quarter when cornerback Travis Fisher fractured his right arm. Fisher, who was expected to be one of the opening day starters after a breakout 2003 season, will miss the majority of the season. Fisher suffered the injury on a normal play in the second quarter. As he wrapped his arm, it broke. He will need to have a plate inserted and surgery will happen in short order.
Fisher said he was disappointed in the injury.“

The starting offense played a majority of the first half, with the exception of running back Marshall Faulk. Quarterback Marc Bulger, working with a patchwork offensive line, had little time to throw, finishing the half with 67 yards on eight-of-15 passing. Faulk played 13 snaps, gaining 16 yards on six carries with a long gain of 11. He exited after the Rams’ third possession and his longest run.

Kansas City linebacker Shawn Barber intercepted Bulger’s pass on first-and-10 from the Kansas City 40 and took it to the end zone to give the Chiefs an insurmountable 24-0 lead at halftime. Barber said the interception was essentially giftwrapped for him. “I was in the right place at the right time,” Barber said. “I was able to read the quarterback on that play.”

The Chiefs first score came on running back Priest Holmes’ 2-yard plunge. The 10-play drive last 4:58 and went 76 yards. Holmes did most of the work, gaining 39 yards of offense. Kansas City scored again two possessions later on a 1-yard touchdown scamper by Derrick Blaylock to make it 14-0. Blaylock replaced Holmes on the drive and, along with second-year back Larry Johnson, did most of the work on the 55-yard drive. Johnson, after running into Green on second-and-nine from the St. Louis 23, broke a 14-yard gain off right tackle to set up Blaylock’s touchdown.

A 13-play, 57-yard drive resulted in Morten Anderson’s 28-yard field goal to give Kansas City a 17-0 edge. Leonard Little picked up a sack on third-and-5 to thwart the drive short of the endzone. The Rams started the second half much better than the first, as they promptly marched 64 yards on 12 plays, capped by rookie Steven Jackson’s first NFL touchdown. The solid play continued throughout the second half, especially by the defense. St. Louis limited the Chiefs to just 57 yards in the final two quarters.

Receiver Kevin Curtis made a pair of nice catches with gains of 23 and 14 yards. Jackson took Chris Chandler’s handoff six yards off left tackle for the score on a well-executed draw. Jeff Wilkins’ extra point made cut the deficit to 24-7.
Curtis turned in one of St. Louis’ best performances of the game, catching five passes for 86 yards. Curtis, who had missed practice time in the past two weeks with shin splints, showed no ill effects.

Martz said Curtis looked fine, but needs playing time more than anything at this stage. “He needs to play,” Martz said. “That’s why you go through these things. You put these guys specifically in these positions in the preseason that have not played so that they learn.”

That would be all the points St. Louis would score, though. They marched into Kansas City territory a few more times, but could not cash in. The biggest problem to the slow start came at a position that has been the Rams’ biggest point of emphasis in training camp, the offensive line.

The starting line faced a steady stream of Kansas City blitzes and had trouble stopping the relentless pass rush. The group started only two of its returnees from last year and one of them (center Andy McCollum) played a different position. That lack of cohesiveness made it difficult for Faulk to find holes and Bulger to have time to throw. Martz said that is the biggest question mark on the team right now and it will be addressed in short order. “We’ve got an awful lot of work to do on our offensive line,” Martz said. “That first group will be fine when we get everybody in place.”