Kansas City Chiefs cornerback William Bartee (24) breaks up a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Drew Bennett (83) in the second quarter Monday, Dec. 13, 2004 in Nashville, Tenn.
(AP Photo/John Russell)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. It wasn't quite as dramatic or significant as the Music City Miracle. The Kansas City Chiefs will take it just the same.
The Chiefs didn't need a long lateral on a controversial kickoff return like the Tennessee Titans once used on their way to the Super Bowl. Other than that, Monday night's 49-38 victory was as wild as anything Nashville has seen on a football field.
And it came from two of the NFL's most disappointing teams.
''It's tough to come in here anytime, let alone win a football game like we did tonight,'' said Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, who scowled at his defense for much of the game.
Kansas City (5-8), which won 13 games last season, was helped greatly by a phantom penalty, then got the winning points on a 9-yard touchdown catch by Eddie Kennison. Trent Green capped a 64-yard drive in just over a minute with his third touchdown pass.
One play earlier, referee Tom White called a personal foul on rookie Travis LaBoy for a hit to Green's helmet. But LaBoy clearly hit Green on the shoulder.
''I am disappointed in the performance of Tom White and the job he did officiating that game,'' said coach Jeff Fisher, who as co-chairman of the NFL competition committee rarely criticizes officials. ''You've got to let players play.''
The teams combined for 925 yards, 233 by Titans receiver Drew Bennett, a career high and the most in the league this season. Bennett, a converted quarterback, caught three touchdown passes from Billy Volek, who threw for a career-high 426 yards in replacing the injured Steve McNair.
Undermanned Tennessee (4-9) gained 542 yards and lost on a night that even featured a snow shower in the Music City.
The Titans had gone ahead 38-35 when rookie Randy Starks pounced on Tony Richardson's bobbled handoff at the Kansas City 17, and Gary Anderson kicked a 27-yard field goal with 1:39 remaining. Then the Chiefs, who got two long touchdown runs from Larry Johnson, surged back.
''I was excited, I was pumped,'' Johnson said. ''As soon as I got my chance and my shot, I did everything I had to do and break tackles.''
They completed the scoring on Kawika Mitchell's 39-yard return of a fumble as the Titans messed up a lateral play with 8 seconds remaining.
No, not all such shenanigans work in Tennessee's favor.
The Titans lacked nine starters, including McNair, last year's co-MVP, when the game began and lost three more during it.
Still, they led much of the night and came back to tie it 35-35 on a 4-yard TD reception by Derrick Mason moments before Green's exchange with fullback Richardson fell to the ground.
''I don't know if I can say I've ever been around a team that fought like this team fought today,'' Fisher added. ''For them to overcome what they had to overcome from an injury standpoint, I just can't say enough about that group of guys.''
Johnson, who has emerged from coach Dick Vermeil's doghouse with a burst, had TD runs of 46 yards in the third quarter, then 41 yards for a 35-28 lead with 4:49 to go. He rushed for 104 overall on only seven carries in place of injured star Priest Holmes.
A strong second half allowed the Chiefs to overcome Bennett, who easily bettered Denver's Rod Smith's 208 yards against Atlanta on Oct. 31. Bennett, who needed intravenous fluids at halftime, set the season high for yards with a nifty move on a fade pattern for a 7-yard touchdown early in the second half. That gave the Titans a 28-21 lead.
''I felt I could beat the DB every time,'' Bennett said. ''I didn't feel our offense in general could be stopped.''
But Johnson broke his 46-yard run, the longest of his two-year career, just two plays after the kickoff to tie it.
''He's grown up a lot and he did an outstanding job,'' Vermeil said.
Tennessee then really got creative on fourth-and-1 from the Chiefs' 46. Craig Hentrich dropped back to punt, but most of his blockers lined up toward the right sideline.
Snapper Ken Amato snapped the ball to Troy Fleming behind that wall and Fleming ran for 13 yards.
The Titans should have saved it, because they wound up punting anyway.
Perhaps tired from all the ground they were covering, both offenses slowed in the fourth quarter until Johnson's decisive TD and the strange ending.
''We did a great job that last drive calling plays,'' Vermeil said. ''Trent made a few and Eddie Kennison made the play and we go home with the win.''
Tennessee's Chris Brown went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season on the opening series, but he fumbled twice. He had a 1-yard TD run before leaving at halftime with a recurrence of his turf toe injury; he gained 91 yards.
He soon was followed to the sideline by tackle Fred Miller (ankle) and center Justin Hartwig (finger).
Kennison also had a big night that featured a 58-yard TD reception as both defenses kept losing track of opposing receivers.
''I don't know how many yards they got,'' Vermeil said, ''but they got a lot.''
Just not enough to win.
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