The Morning After: St. Louis

Posted Dec 20, 2010

Fourth-down conversion sparks Kansas City in decisive Governor's Cup victory

This one wasn’t about the start. It was all about the finish.

The Chiefs managed a decisive road victory despite producing a first quarter to forget. With QB Sam Bradford nickel and diming the Rams down the field and RB Steven Jackson powering for first downs, St. Louis’ initial drive looked eerily similar to last Sunday’s start in San Diego.

Through the first 10 minutes of play St. Louis controlled 90% of the clock and put scoring drives together. Offensively, the Chiefs first quarter consisted of nine snaps for 16 yards and an interception.

Holding the Rams to field goals instead of touchdowns was the difference between the early goings in Weeks 14 and 15.

“Sometimes when you have a tough loss it takes a little bit of time for you to get going,” RB Thomas Jones said. “Our defense played a great game and kept us in the game early. They gave us some time to regroup and get back out there and make some plays.”

Todd Haley’s aggressiveness ultimately flipped the Chiefs offensive switch.

In a second quarter decision that defines Haley’s approach to four-down football, the Chiefs opted to go for a fourth-and-one at their own 48-yard line while trailing 6-0. Jackie Battle took the handoff, rumbled behind Ryan Lilja for seven yards and converted the first down.

A punt might have flipped field position, but the conversion would flip the Chiefs switch. From that point forward Kansas City looked like a different football team.

“It was something that we had to get done,” TE Leonard Pope said. “Todd and everyone on the offensive staff tells us every week that the game is one about inches and we knew that we had to convert right there and get it.”

The fourth-and-one conversion took place at the 9:57 mark of the second quarter. Through the rest of the half, the Chiefs scored 14 unanswered points and tallied 146 total yards. Meanwhile, the Rams netted -1 yard offensively.

It was as if one play changed the entire course of the football game.

“Its determination and self motivation at the same time,” DE Wallace Gilberry said of the Chiefs turnaround. “It’s a matter of just knowing that you can do it and then getting it done.”

Kansas City’s momentum carried into the second half with the Chiefs taking the opening drive 48 yards to set up a 53-yard Ryan Succop field goal. Succop’s connection was a career-long and gave the Chiefs 17 unanswered points and a 194 to -1 yardage advantage since that fourth-down conversion.

When the Rams finally found the end zone in the fourth quarter, Jamaal Charles busted the longest run of his career (80 yards) on first snap following St. Louis’ score. Thomas Jones put the hammer down the next play, going up-and-over a pile of defenders to give the Chiefs a 27-13 lead.

“A big thing for us all week was that we had to show that we could bounce back from a difficult, demoralizing loss last week in a big game and come into this big game and do the things we had to do to win,” Haley said. “We started out a little shaky but we got our feet under us, we settled down and started playing football and doing things we knew we had to do to have a chance to win.”

One play doesn’t decide a football game, but Haley’s fourth-down decision sure seemed to invigorate both sides of the football. Sunday’s game was far different following the conversion.

“Nine wins…nine wins,” Gilberry said. “That’s the best way that I can put it and the best way that I can describe it. Now we go back to Arrowhead in front of our fans.”

News and Notes

RB Thomas Jones became the 25th player in NFL history to reach 10,000 rushing yards.

“That’s amazing for me, especially where I started in Arizona,” Jones said. “I had a tough start. It says a lot about my family, my support system, which has been great throughout my whole career, my belief in God, and just sticking with Him and never giving up on my abilities. It’s definitely something that you can look back on when your career is over and be proud of.”

QB Matt Cassel returned to make his first start since undergoing an emergency appendectomy procedure on December 8th.

“I just think it’s just like any other injury,” Cassel said. “I would say I was a little nervous going into the game just because for 28 years of my life, I’ve played every game with my appendix and today was my first game without it [laughs]. But like I said, it really is just like any other injury where you talk to the doctors and the trainers. We’ve got a great medical staff led by David Price, so he just evaluated me and said you are fine to go.”

The Edward Jones Dome turned red on Sunday as thousands of Chiefs fans flooded the building to see their Chiefs play in the biggest Governor’s Cup meeting to date.

“No offense to the St. Louis Rams fans, but it felt like Arrowhead out there,” Gilberry said. “Our fans brought it. Just times that by 20 and it’s going to be electrifying next week.”

More Postgame Notes can be found here. Game Balls

Offense: QB Matt Cassel

There were players who finished with better numbers, but Cassel’s return had a profound impact on the team as a whole. Read about it here.

Defense: DE Wallace Gilberry

In all of football, is there a reserve defensive lineman more effective than Gilberry? Chiefs fans definitely don’t think so.

Routinely embracing whatever role he’s asked to play, Gilberry has been a sparkplug in defensive sub-packages for the better part of Todd Haley’s tenure as head coach. Gilberry led all Chiefs defensive linemen in sacks last season and he’s doing so again in 2010.

On Sunday, Gilberry spearheaded the defensive charge with a career-high 3.0 sacks, forcing a fumble as well. His third-down sack of Sam Bradford following Matt Cassel’s second quarter INT was one of the more critical plays in the game. Gilberry now owns a career-best 7.0 sacks on the season.

Special Teams: K Ryan Succop

The dome was a great place for kickers. Succop tied a career-long by connecting on a 53-yard field goal, while Dustin Colquitt booted a 72-yard punt. Succop finished the day 2-for-2 with connections from 53 and 38 yards. Succop’s also had a 51-yard make wiped out by a false start penalty.

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