NFL Preview - St. Louis (2-4) at Kansas City (3-3)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Kansas City Chiefs haven't played at Arrowhead Stadium in almost a month and hope to give their fans something to cheer about when the St. Louis Rams come to town Sunday.
The Chiefs sandwiched two road games between their bye week and survived a visit to the San Diego Chargers with last weekend's 23-20 victory. The Chargers had won five in a row and quarterback Philip Rivers was cooled off to the tune of 205 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Cairo Santos nailed a 48-yard field goal with 21 seconds remaining in the game for the Chiefs, who have won three of their last four games to get back to the .500 mark at 3-3.
"For a rookie to step up...with the game on his back, that's a tribute to him," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of his kicker.
Santos made three field goals on the afternoon and safety Kurt Coleman sealed the win with an interception of Rivers, who had thrown at least three TD passes in each of his previous three games.
Reid improved to 14-2 after the bye in his career as an NFL head coach. Now the longtime Philadelphia Eagles head coach is preparing for the Rams.
"The great part about this is we still have a ton of room to improve as coaches and players to make ourselves a better football team," Reid said. "We've got a heck of football team coming in here this week. Jeff's (Fisher) done a nice job with the Rams. They are playing at a very high level, they're fast, they're aggressive. We've got to make sure that we get ourselves ready."
Kansas City, which is playing at home for the first time since a 41-14 rout of New England on Sept. 29, hopes running back Jamaal Charles can continue his recent surge on the ground. Charles ran for a season-high 95 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers, and passed Priest Holmes' mark of 6,070 career rushing yards.
Charles has 6,113 rushing yards and is the third player in team lore to record 6,000 or more rushing yards. He is averaging 89.0 rushing yards per game in the last three after running for a total of 23 in his first two games. The Chiefs are third in rushing this season with 140.3 yards per game and will face a St. Louis defense that is 28th against the rush (145.0).
During a radio inter view, Charles said he got hit pretty hard at one point and experienced a little discomfort. Charles didn't believe he suffered a concussion and avoided the league's protocol on those types of scenarios.
Meanwhile, the Rams will play their next three games on the road against Kansas City, San Francisco and Arizona, and are 1-4 in last five away from the Gateway City.
St. Louis ended a three-game slide with Sunday's 28-26 triumph over the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and needed some tricks up its sleeve to pull off the upset. The Rams had a misdirected punt return in the second quarter, and the other special teams play was a fake punt late in the fourth quarter on 4th-and-3 from their own 18-yard line.
Seattle thought the ball was kicked to one side of the field, but Rams players drew the opposition away from Stedman Bailey, who returned the punt 90 yards for a touchdown. The Seahawks held on and pulled within two points on a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, but St. Louis never relinquished the lead and improved to 2-4.
"We say from time to time, it's hard to win in the National Football League," Fisher said after the game. "And I'm just really grateful for the effort ... the entire team effort, coaching staff's effort ... this week, coming out on a short week."
The Rams dropped a 31-17 decision to the 49ers the previous Monday.
The Chiefs have a five-game winning streak going against the Rams and haven't lost in this series since a 16-0 defeat on Sept. 25, 1994. Kansas City posted a 27-13 win in the last meeting on Dec. 19, 2010, as Charles ran for 126 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
Kansas City is 6-4 all-time against the Rams and is averaging 37.8 points per game during the current five-game win streak. The Chiefs are 10-2 against the NFC West since 2002 and swept the division in 2006 and 2010.
The Rams last visited Arrowhead Stadium in 2002, a 49-10 KC triumph.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith isn't the flashiest of NFL quarterbacks, but is known for his efficiency. Smith has thrown for 813 yards with eight touchdowns passes to just one interception in his last four games.
Because of Charles and the running game, the Chiefs really don't have to rely on Smith as evidenced by a 30th-ranked pass attack that produces 199.7 yards per game. Still, Smith (1,270 yards, (9 TD, 4 INT) can get the job done and will try to continue his recent success against the Rams. In past three games against them, the former 49er has 559 yards and four TDs with no INTs.
Smith has connected with 14 different receivers this season, including Dwayne Bowe, who had a season-high 84 yards on five catches against the Chargers. In five games Bowe is still searching for his first touchdown reception. Smith's favorite target is tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce leads the team in catches (24), yards (307) and touchdowns (3).
Kelce has 15 receptions for first downs and a TD in three of the last four games for the Chiefs, who have scored 14 touchdowns in 20 trips inside the 20- yard line. Look for Smith and Kelce to connect again versus a St. Louis defense rated 14th against the pass, allowing 234.0 yards per game. Smith is 33-12-1 as a starter since 2011.
Charles can play a big role in the pass game, but has just 11 receptions for 55 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Charles has 2,030 career receiving yards on 233 catches. Holmes ended his career with 251 and Kimble Anders has the most by a running back in team annals with 369.
On the other side of the ball, Kansas City will go after Rams young QB Austin Davis with two defensive stars in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Both defenders know how to get after the quarterback and have helped the Chiefs compile 17.0 sacks this season.
"We have another good one coming up this week," Reid said of Davis. "This young kid who's playing for the Rams is playing well."
Houston has five sacks in the last four games (7 total), while Hali has recorded a sack in four of his past five (4 total).
Davis has thrown for 1,517 yards, nine TDs and four INTs in his rookie campaign, and was not sacked in the win over Seattle. He was sacked nine times in the previous two games, however.
Davis had his highest rating of 128.6 versus the defending champs and completed 18-of-21 passes for 152 yards and two scores. The passer rating was the highest by a Rams QB since Marc Bulger's 133.3 on Nov. 20, 2005. Davis did not throw an interception for the third time this season.
"You have to tip your hat to Seattle," Davis said. "They're a really, really good football team. It took a pretty flawless game in terms of turnovers and penalties, and we knew that coming in."
Rookie running back Tre Mason ran for 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and filled in for injured starter Zac Stacey (ankle). Stacey leads the Rams with 240 rushing yards on 61 touches and his status for Sunday is unknown. He only had 17 yards on eight carries against San Francisco on Oct. 13.
The Chiefs are one of just two teams (Buffalo) to not give up a rushing touchdown this season.
St. Louis' defense will have a tough time Sunday in all phases. The unit is allowing almost 30 points a game (29.3) and has just four sacks on the season. Defensive end Robert Quinn recorded his first sack of the season on Sunday after notching 19.0 last year.
Aaron Donald leads the Rams with two sacks on the season.
The Rams have scored 28 points or more
All wins are important in the NFL, but this is the time of year teams begin to separate from the rest of the pack. With the last weekend of football in October upon us, the Chiefs must take it to another level and stay in the AFC playoff race because winning a division is not likely.
The Chiefs have the ground game, defense and enough talent at quarterback to avoid an upset versus the Rams at Arrowhead Stadium.
"That's the game of football," Smith said. "You have to trust the guy next to you. We talk about it all the time ... offensively, defensively, the guy next to you in the huddle ... you have to trust all those guys to do their job. And you have to trust that you're going to do yours."
KC's beloved Royals are in the World Series and the Chiefs will keep the city's spirits alive.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Chiefs 26, Rams 16
10/26 07:19:05 ET