Chiefs 27, Chargers 14

Monday, September 8th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Kansas City Chiefs might just have a defense to go along with their high-powered offense. San Diego's defense, only slightly better than Kansas City's a year ago, still needs some work.

The Chiefs gave up almost 30 points a game _ the NFL's worst scoring defense _ when they went 8-8 last year. They were far stingier in Sunday's 2003 opener.

They contained San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson, got three sacks from new right end Vonnie Holliday and shut out the Chargers in the first half of a 27-14 win.

Tomlinson, who ran for 209 yards in two games against Kansas City a year ago, was held to just 34 yards on 13 carries Sunday.

``Our defense has been maligned for two years, and a lot of it we deserved,'' Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said. ``Now, to see them start out and stop a real fine running back ... was really good.''

The Chargers, who ranked 30th in total defense last year, couldn't stop Kansas City's Priest Holmes.

Holmes showed he was back at full strength from the hip injury that ended his 2002 season early, running for 85 yards and two scores and catching seven passes for another 98 yards.

``If there are any questions about Priest Holmes' hip,'' Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer deadpanned, ``I think they have been dispelled.''

Holmes ran for scores of 24 and 5 yards and Trent Green threw a 20-yard TD pass to Johnnie Morton _ part of a 21-for-32, 282-yard day for Green _ as Kansas City built a 24-0 halftime lead.

Two of those touchdowns _ and Morten Andersen's 42-yard field goal for a 24-lead _ came after big plays by the Chiefs' defense.

Greg Wesley's interception and 16-yard return set up Holmes' 5-yard run. Morton's catch and Andersen's field goal came after Holliday's sacks of Drew Brees killed San Diego's first two drives in the second quarter.

Andersen's 46-yarder in the fourth quarter accounted for Kansas City's only second-half points.

``(Brees) couldn't set up in the pocket,'' said Holliday, signed as a free agent from Green Bay in the offseason. ``He had to get outside that pocket _ and we knew by watching film that when he gets out of the pocket, he's a different quarterback.''

Brees recovered in the second half to throw TD passes of 21 yards to Josh Norman and 20 yards to Eric Parker. He was 18-for-33 for 202 yards with two interceptions.

``We needed four touchdowns, and we only got two of them,'' Brees said. ``There were some plays out there to be made, and we didn't make all of them.''

The same could be said of San Diego's revamped secondary, which blew several coverage schemes early, including on Green's TD throw when Morton slipped uncovered between two defenders.

``We just didn't go out and execute the way we were supposed to,'' said cornerback Quentin Jammer, who made an athletic interception in the third quarter to set up Brees' TD pass to Norman. ``The whole defense _ the secondary, the linebackers, the line _ all have to go out and make the plays.''