NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - INSIDE SLANT
If the Kansas City Chiefs are barely recognizable compared to the 2-14 team of a year ago. That is by design.
Throughout his illustrious coaching career, Chiefs coach Andy Reid has found a way to uncover some of the league's hidden gems.
Reid's latest project: Marcus Cooper, an unheralded rookie out of Rutgers.
Leading 20-17 late in the fourth quarter Sunday, Cooper jumped a comeback intended for Nate Washington and wrestled the ball away from the Titans' veteran wide receiver for a game-changing interception. The Chiefs held on for a 26-17 win and improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2003.
Operating out of a bunch set, Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick targeted Washington, a dependable veteran regarded for his ability to run crisp routes. It was a play Cooper studied this week in a defensive film session.
"We saw a bunch set, that's something they like to do," Cooper said. "I was just able to go and get a jump on it."
Cooper, who was released by the 49ers during final cuts in the preseason, forced two turnovers including a pivotal touchdown in the first quarter.
The Chiefs took the lead for good on a 1-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles with 6:27 left. Aided by a late-hit penalty on Titans linebacker Moise Fokou, Kansas City went 66 yards on 10 plays during the game-winning drive. Kansas City preserved the win with two interceptions and a pair of field goals by Ryan Succop in the final three minutes.
On a rainy afternoon in Nashville, the sloppy affair featured a combined five turnovers and 15 penalties between the teams. The Chiefs and Titans entered this week tied for a league-high plus-9 turnover margin.
After going four weeks without committing a turnover, it took the Titans less than five minutes to cough up the ball on Sunday. While setting a block for punt returner Darius Reynaud, a knuckling ball caromed off Titans wide receiver Damian Williams' foot, bounced toward the end zone and was gathered by Cooper, who rolled in for a 2-yard touchdown. Cooper alertly pounced on the ball before a member of the Titans' coverage team could retrieve it.
"I didn't even see the other guy," Cooper said. "I just saw the ball - it might have been tunnel vision."
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - NOTES, QUOTES
The Chiefs led 13-0 halftime Sunday after safety Quintin Demps stopped Titans running back Jackie Battle on a fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard late in the second quarter.
"He's about 250 and he can run so he's not a fullback, he's a running back," Demps said. "I just played my role. He's strong so everyone had to rally toward him."
--Before Sunday, the Chiefs were not tested when they built a double-digit lead in three of their four victories. Quarterback Alex Smith showed little panic when he orchestrated a 10-play, 66-yard game-winning drive midway through the fourth quarter. Smith, who entered Sunday with a 51.9 completion percentage on passes of at least 10 yards, demonstrated his arm strength on two deep passes to Donnie Avery.
--The Chiefs are 5-0 for the second time in franchise history. The first was in 2003, when Kansas City started the season 9-0. This marks the first time in NFL history a team has started 5-0 after winning fewer than three games the previous season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You have to threaten them with the style of defense they are playing. It's a give and take and you have to be able make the plays. It's such a fine line playing that kind of defense, they are jamming you, pressing you outside and bringing pressure. You really have to be on top of it." -- Quarterback Alex Smith
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Donnie Avery has regained the explosive, straight-line he showcased early in his career. Slowed by a season-ending torn ACL in the 2010 preseason, Avery had only three catches for 45 yards the following year in his only season with the Titans. On Sunday, Avery torched his former team with a game-high 91 receiving yards on three catches. Two of Avery's catches came on fly patterns for at least 40 yards each.
--PK Ryan Succop had four field goals and is 10 of 12 this season. He hasn't missed an attempt inside 50 yards.
His 14 points give him 443 career points, passing K Pete Stoyanovich (442) for fifth place in team history for most career points. Succop has now converted 10 of 12 field goals for the season (83.3%) and all 14 PATs for 44 points.
-- RB Jamaal Charles recorded 108 yards on 22 carries in the contest with a one-yard touchdown to give him 4,933 career rushing yards, passing RB Christian Okoye (4,897) for third place on the franchise's all-time rushing yardage list.
-- LB Justin Houston recorded a sack of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, giving him 8.5 sacks for the season. He added four solo tackles, including one for loss, and one QB pressure. He now has 24.0 career sacks. Entering Week 5 games, Houston was tied for the NFL lead with 7.5 sacks.