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Defense delivers as Chiefs stuff Jets

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Sept. 11, 2005) -- Here's a switch: The Kansas City defense is apologizing for being imperfect, not for being awful.

The Chiefs' revamped defense -- the product of a busy, wheeling-and-dealing offseason -- came within 29 seconds of handing the New York Jets their first shutout in almost 10 years.

A 27-7 victory Sunday over the mistake-prone Jets proved a major pick-me-up for a defense which the past three years has never finished higher than 29th.

"We really wanted that shutout at the end. I know our fans did, too," said defensive end Eric Hicks, who blocked a field goal attempt when rookie Mike Nugent slipped. "I'm sorry we couldn't get it for them."

Kansas City started fast on offense, too -- Larry Johnson rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries and Priest Holmes added 85 yards and a touchdown.

Spurred on by newcomers like Sammy Knight, Patrick Surtain and Derrick Johnson, the new-look defense forced seven fumbles and recovered two. Chad Pennington was sacked three times and intercepted once.

Curtis Martin was held to 57 yards on 20 carries -- 139 fewer than he had in last year's season opener against Cincinnati en route to the NFL rushing title.

"There's nothing like having talent," said head coach Dick Vermeil. "Our draft and free agency were good, and then the maturity of the kids that were already here blended together. Talented athletes make more tackles than average athletes."

Backup Jay Fiedler enabled the Jets to avoid their first shutout since Dec. 24, 1995, when he hit Chris Baker on a 23-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds to go.

"I wish we could have made more of a game of it, but it wasn't," said Jets coach Herman Edwards. "They took us behind the woodshed and whupped us."

On their first three possessions, the Chiefs had touchdown drives of 75 and 95 yards and a 41-yard field goal. Holmes had a 35-yard run on the first drive, then Johnson, who is challenging him for playing time, finished it off with a 35-yard dash into the end zone.

"Willie Roaf pulled and that's all it is," said Johnson, who marked his sixth consecutive game with two or more TDs. "You've got two linemen out there and not too many (defensive backs) can stand their ground against two linemen."

Roaf, the Chiefs' 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle, later went out with what Vermeil said was a hamstring injury. By the end of the half, defensive tackle Ryan Sims was out with a foot injury and Surtain was on the sideline with a concussion following a 53-yard interception return. Pro Bowl fullback Tony Richardson also left the game with a mild kneed sprain.

"Hopefully the guys we lost today will be back soon and be back at full strength," Vermeil said. "We probably won't have (Roaf) for next week."

Pennington, coming off shoulder surgery, also had several passes dropped, including one by Laveranues Coles that might have gone for a touchdown in the first half.

"The opportunity was there to get the momentum going in our favor, and I pretty much let the team down," Coles said. "I just have to go back to work this week and try to make up for it."

Johnson also had 54 yards on five runs in a 66-yard march that made it 27-0 on the first play of the fourth quarter. His 23-yard run put the ball on the 4, and he took it in on the next play.

The Jets were hurt by more kicking woes, bringing back bad memories of the two missed field goals in a three-point loss to Pittsburgh in last year's playoffs. Nugent, drafted in the second round out of Ohio State, slipped while attempting a 28-yard field goal and Hicks blocked the low-trajectory ball.

Trent Green, who underwent vascular surgery on his left leg on Aug. 30, connected on his first eight passes but wound up just 15-for-26 for 200 yards. Pennington was 21-for-34 for 264 yards.

Holmes scored on a 3-yard run on the Chiefs' second possession, a 95-yard drive on which Green completed all six of his passes for 87 yards. Lawrence Tynes added field goals of 41 and 38 yards for the Chiefs, both coming after Jets fumbles.

Notes: The Chiefs held a moment of silence before the game for former coach Hank Stram and former punter Jerrel Wilson, who died during the offseason. ... The Chiefs will wear a decal bearing Stram's initials on their helmets. ... Former Australian Football League star Ben Graham, 31, the oldest rookie ever to start an NFL season, punted three times for a 44.3-yard average. The Jets lost their seventh straight road game in which they had an even or negative turnover ratio.

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