Work in Sports
Edgerrin James rushed for 128 yards and had a pair of touchdowns and the Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison connection dissected the Chiefs secondary as the Colts posted a 27-14 victory in a steamy season opener with the game time temperature at 96 degrees.
"I don't think a lot of our young players appreciate how difficult it is to come in here and beat these guys in this stadium," Colts coach Jim Mora said. "I was really proud that we were able to come in and win this game."
The first rookie to win a rushing title since Eric Dickerson, James atoned for an early fumble, scoring on a one-yard run early in the first quarter and catching a 27-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He had six receptions for 40 yards.
"They have what, 11 consecutive home opener wins," James said.
"We needed to be up coming into a place like this and I thought we really played well."
Manning, who led the AFC in quarterback rating, passing yards and touchdown passes last season, completed 22-of-32 for 273 yards with an interception.
Harrison, Manning's favorite target, had nine receptions for 115 yards. He caught 115 passes for a league-high 1,663 yards last season.
Along with the "Big Three," the Colts received an unexpected boost from their defense when cornerback Jeff Burris returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, increasing Indianapolis' lead to 20-10. The Colts had just 10 interceptions in 16 regular season games last year.
It was an emotional day for the Chiefs, who held a tribute to the late Derrick Thomas before the game. Thomas, a nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker in an 11-year career with the Chiefs, died of a massive blood clot on February 8, a little more than two weeks after he suffered paralysis in his legs in a car accident.
Thomas' mother, Edith Morgan, was on the field flanked by Chiefs president Carl Peterson and owner Lamar Hunt before the game as a film of Thomas was presented to the sold out crowd at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs honored Thomas by wearing a No.
58 decal on their helmets.
Kansas City coach Gunther Cunningham and the players viewed the tribute film on Saturday, and did not line up on the field when it was shown today.
"When we viewed the video, as you might expect it was very emotional for all of us," Cunningham said. "I just thought it was best for us to stay inside when it was shown today."
Kansas City had never lost a home opener since Thomas was drafted by the team in 1989, winning 11 straight. The Miami Dolphins hold the NFL record with 13 straight home-opening wins from 1976 to 1988.
The Chiefs battled courageously today, and forced a pair of first-quarter turnovers, but did not have enough to contain the Colts.
The game was tied at 14-14 when Colts rookie Payton Williams returned a punt 40 yards to the Kansas City 32. A 14-yard pass from Manning to E.G. Green set up a go-ahead 23-yard field goal by Mike Vanderjagt 1:23 into the fourth quarter.
"They had a strong rush and I just got it behind Derrick a bit," Grbac said. "That one hurt."
A 19-yard pass from Manning to Harrison and a 30-yard run by James set up a 40-yard field goal by Vanderjagt with 4:01 left.
The Colts soundly outplayed the Chiefs in the first quarter, outgaining them, 136-20.
The Colts again drove into Kansas City territory later in the quarter, but Manning was intercepted by Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards at the Kansas City 31.
"The turnovers were not good but we went the rest of the game without one," Mora said.
Indianapolis put together an 11-play, 92-yard drive which resulted in James' one-yard run 45 seconds into the second quarter. Manning hit Harrison with passes of 12 and 20 yards and connected with Jerome Pathon on a 33-yard play to highlight the drive.
After managing one first down in the first quarter, the Chiefs took advantage of a 24-yard pass interference penalty on Colts cornerback Tyrone Poole in their first scoring drive.
Larry Parker returned a punt 17 yards to the Kansas City 49.
After a 13-yard pass from Grbac to Alexander, Poole was flagged for interference. Two plays later, Grbac hit fullback Tony Richardson with an 11-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 5:23 left in the half.
After Harrison caught six passes for 94 yards in the first half, the Chiefs rotated their defense to him. Manning took advantage with a 21-yard pass over the middle to E.G. Green on a 3rd-and-7 play to the Kansas City 40.
Two plays later, Manning faked a pass to his right and lofted a short pass over the middle to James, who was inexplicably wide open with guard Steve McKinney in front of him and scored on a 27-yard play with 8:23 left in the third quarter.
"Any time you catch the ball in a blitz you're going to be open like that," James said. "I just had to take advantage of that and the blocks were there."
The Chiefs responded with a nine-play, 76-yard drive, capped by a game-tying 21-yard scoring pass from Grbac to Alexander with 4:25 left in the third quarter. Grbac hit Kevin Lockett with passes of 17 and 12 yards to highlight the drive before Alexander beat rookie David Macklin on a post pattern in the end zone.
The Colts held Chiefs Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez to just two catches for 34 yards. He led the Chiefs with 76 catches last season.
Grbac completed just 16-of-37 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.