When Arizona scored quickly in the fourth quarter to get within a touchdown, the Kansas City Chiefs feared the worst.
"Losing six games in a row, you tend to lose your confidence," said linebacker Donnie Edwards. "Everybody was thinking, `Don't let it happen again -- don't let it happen again."'
So they didn't. The longest losing streak in Marty Schottenheimer's 15-year coaching career and the longest for the Chiefs in a non-strike year since 1985 came to an end Sunday with a 34-24 victory over the Cardinals.
Not only had the Chiefs (5-7) lost six in a row, they had blown a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead the previous week against San Diego.
"The guys on the sideline were saying, 'Oh, no, not again,"' said safety Jerome Woods.
Rich Gannon threw three touchdown passes and the Chiefs, struggling with many of the same mistakes that marked their six-game slide, took a 31-17 lead with 10:26 left on Derrick Alexander's 15-yard TD catch.
But the Cardinals (6-6), who had moved into playoff contention by winning three of their last four, answered with an 80-yard drive aided by a pass interference call and made it 31-24 on Mario Bates' 1-yard plunge.
"We're human beings. Doubt came into our minds," said linebacker Anthony Davis.
| Chiefs cornerback James Hasty (left) and linebacker Donnie Edwards bring down Cardinals running back Mario Bates during the first quarter. (AP) |
"There's a lot of fight in this football team," said Gannon, who completed 21-of-28 for 231 yards.
Jake Plummer, who had passed for 816 yards and five touchdowns the two previous games, handed the Chiefs their first TD with a poorly thrown ball that James Hasty intercepted and returned 21 yards to the 4, setting up Bam Morris' 2-yard plunge.
"I gave them seven easy points and that turned out to be big at the end of the game," said Plummer. "Had I not thrown that ball, it would have made a big difference at the end when we were still in it."
Plummer completed 20-of-37 for 250 yards.
Alexander, who caught five passes for 173 yards the previous week at San Diego, had six catches for 116 yards and two TDs and became the first Kansas City receiver in four years with back-to-back 100-yard games.
"We were hurting a lot," Alexander said. "Guys around here aren't used to losing the way we had been."
Kansas City took a 14-3 lead with 10:51 left in the half after Tamarick Vanover returned an Arizona kickoff 62 yards to the 38 and Donnell Bennett finished the drive by catching Gannon's 2-yard scoring toss.
The Cardinals, who got a 37-yard field goal from Joe Nedney on the first play of the second quarter, closed to 14-10 with 2:25 remaining in the half when Rob Moore made a leaping catch of Plummer's 10-yard pass in the back of the end zone. Plummer, finally finding the range on the windy day, hit Frank Sanders twice for 17-yard gains in the 64-yard drive.
The Chiefs, who have won 10 straight against NFC teams, went 80 yards in six plays with their first possession of the first half. lexander, working against Aeneas Williams, beat the Pro Bowl cornerback on a 30-yard scoring play for a 21-10 lead. Stoyanovich made it 24-10 with a 37-yard field goal with 4:02 left in the third.
The Cardinals, striving for their first playoff bid since moving from St. Louis in 1988, roared back on a four-play, 80-yard drive capped by Adrian Murrell's 4-yard run to make it 24-17 with 1:50 left in the third.
"We couldn't get them turned away coming down the stretch and that is very disappointing," said Arizona coach Vince Tobin. "Good football teams have a way, and find a way, to make plays when they have to make them. Even though the Chiefs' record is what it is, they're still a very talented football playing at home."
NotesLouie Aguiar's 59-yard punt in the first quarter was his longest of the year.
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