Posted: Saturday December 18, 1999 06:06 PM
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Ticker) -- It did not seem possible three weeks ago, but the Kansas City Chiefs find themselves in sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez caught a pair of touchdown passes as the Chiefs rolled over the reeling Pittsburgh Steelers, 35-19, to stretch their winning streak to four games and move a half-game ahead of the slumping Seattle Seahawks.
Prior to starting their winning streak against Oakland on November 28, the Chiefs were three games behind Seattle, which has hit the skids with a three-game losing streak.
"We've got a ways to go but today's game was really important to me for a lot of reasons," said Kansas City coach Gunther Cunningham, whose club was coming off a last-second 31-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
"It was a tough week and a short week. It was emotional for me because the Steelers did not have a very good record coming in and Seattle loomed down the road."
The Seahawks visit Denver on Sunday before hosting Kansas City on December 26. The Chiefs close the season at home against Oakland while Seattle ends the campaign on the road against the New York Jets.
The defeat gave the Steelers (5-9) their first six-game losing streak in the era of coach Bill Cowher, who was hired prior to the 1992 season. Pittsburgh's last six-game slide game came in 1988 under Chuck Noll.
"This game was disappointing," Cowher said. "Overall, the big plays were very significant. Tony Gonzalez, who is a big-play guy, made some to keep drives going today. A lot of guys got banged up in this game, so we are going to go from there."
Gonzalez, who became the first tight end in Kansas City history with 60 receptions in a season, caught a 15-yard TD pass to tie it, 7-7, in the first quarter and a two-yard scoring strike that gave the Chiefs a 21-13 advantage with 4:17 left in the first half.
"You have a feeling that the guy's going to be open pretty much all the time," said Elvis Grbac, who completed 12-of-22 passes for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns. "His confidence right now is so high that he thinks he can catch everything."
"Tony is a consummate professional football player," Cunningham added. "He's not only a great football player but a great person. What you see during the game is what you see every day in season or offseason."
Pittsburgh marched 63 yards on seven plays on the game's opening possession and grabbed a 7-0 lead on Mike Tomczak's 12-yard TD pass to Troy Edwards with 11:10 remaining in the first quarter.
But the Chiefs' defense took over, allowing only a pair of field goals by rookie Kris Brown until Tomczak tossed a meaningless 11-yard TD pass to Bobby Shaw with 34 seconds remaining.
The Steelers scored on their first two possessions as Brown kicked a 42-yard field to make it 10-7 with 5:07 left in the first period.
Pittsburgh had a chance to extend its lead but Brown had his 49-yard field goal blocked with 21 seconds left in the first period. Kansas City took the lead for good at 14-10 when linebacker Donnie Edwards returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown 4:44 into the second quarter.
"This team feeds off interceptions and turnovers and fumbles, Tomczak said. "I think Jacksonville has a better defense, but this team feeds off turnovers."
After Brown booted a 47-yard field goal with three seconds remaining in the first half, the Chiefs made it 28-13 on wide receiver Derrick Alexander's 82-yard TD scamper on an end around with 1:29 to play in the third quarter. It was his first career rushing touchdown and his fourth-longest play from scrimmage.
"I think Derrick Alexander is another guy I would go to and so is Kevin Lockett," Grbac said. "I'm just not zeroing in on one guy. I think a lot of it was the two-deep coverage they were playing."
"Derrick Alexander's run was something special, but not only his run," Cunningham added. "There were three or four blocks. Kevin Lockett made two on the play. Tim Grunhard, bless his heart, he's beat up, but got out there and made a great block. Tony Gonzalez made the finest block you'll see. He knocked the guy out."
The Steelers had a chance to get back in the game early in the final period but safety Eric Warfield picked off Tomczak in the end zone with 9:28 to play.
Tomczak was 23-of-46 for 278 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions while Jerome Bettis rushed for 63 yards on 19 carries, ending his string of four consecutive 100-yard games against the Chiefs.
"This is a sad ride and embarrassing ride," Tomzcak said. "We know we are better than this and we have two weeks left to prove it. Two weeks to get a victory under our belt. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to the fans."
Former Steeler Bam Morris added to Pittsburgh's misery with a 10-yard TD run with 1:56 remaining. Morris rushed for 71 yards on 17 carries.
"Cowher always gets his team fired up coming in here," Morris said. "We knew he had to be ready. They are a hard-hitting team."
The teams have split their last six meetings, all at Arrowhead Stadium. Pittsburgh posted a 20-13 victory here last year, ending Kansas City's 11-game home winning streak.
Copyright © 2000|
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.