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Archive for Sunday, December 19, 1999

CHIEFS PUMMEL PITTSBURGH

December 19, 1999

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— With AFC West championship possibly coming down to next Sunday's matchup against the Seahawks in Seattle, the Kansas City Chiefs could have looked past the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers.

Instead, the Chiefs' offense rolled out 218 yards rushing and the defense came up with four interceptions as Kansas City cruised past Pittsburgh, 35-19.

Seattle (8-5) needs a win today at Denver to remain tied with the Chiefs (9-5) entering next week's division showdown.

"It was emotional for me because the Steelers did not have a very good record coming in and Seattle loomed down the road," said Cunningham, whose team won its fourth straight game. "My hat's off to the players. We started off sluggish after practicing hard all week, but came around."

Sluggish or not, the Chiefs found plenty of ways to score after Pittsburgh's opening drive.

The Steelers began the game with a seven-play, 63-yard drive that ended with Mike Tomczak's 12-yard touchdown pass to Troy Edwards.

Quarterback Elvis Grbac started the Chiefs' first offensive drive with a 23-yard hookup with tight end Tony Gonzalez. Five plays later, Grbac again set Gonzalez in his sights, this time in the endzone as Gonzalez reeled in a 15-yard touchdown pass.

After Kris Brown's 42-yard field goal put the Steelers in front, the Chiefs took the lead for good.

During the Steelers' first possession of the second quarter, Chiefs' linebacker Donnie Edwards intercepted a Tomczak pass and returned it 28 yards for a score.

For Edwards, who also picked off Tomczak in the fourth quarter for his fifth interception of the year, the interception return for a TD was his second of the season.

Cunningham praised his defensive's ability to create turnovers and turn them into scores.

"I've never seen anything like it," Cunningham said. "They're ball hogs. To have a linebacker have as many interceptions as Donnie has is really unbelievable."

With the lead and momentum, Kansas City capitalized on its next offensive series as Grbac again hooked up with Gonzalez -- this time on a 2-yard touchdown reception.

"I just have that feeling with Tony Gonzalez right now," Grbac said. "As a quarterback, you get a feel for the way a guy runs and it grows on you. That and Tony is just playing at such a high level right now and is very confident in his abilities to catch the ball."

Gonzalez finished the game with six receptions for 93 yards. His 10 touchdown catches this season are the most ever by a Kansas City tight end.

Grbac finished the game 12-of-22 for 149 passing yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

After being critized about his playing ability throughout the season, Grbac is learning to shrug off his critics and focus on being a leader.

"I think I'm still growing as a player," Grbac said. "But I owe a lot of credit to the guys that play around me. The offensive line has made good blocks and given me the time to throw the ball or opened up wholes for our backfield."

Leading 21-13 at halftime, the Chiefs extended their lead in the second half with a reverse near the end of the third quarter.

After a fake hand-off to running back Bam Morris, wide receiver Derrick Alexander swung around from the left side of the field, took the hand-off and headed for the Chiefs' sidelines.

With a couple of key blocks from receiver Joe Horn, center Tim Grunhard and Gonzalez, Alexander made his way through the Steelers' defense 82 yards for the first rushing touchdown of his career.

"The play was effective earlier with Joe (Horn)," Alexander said. "I got a lot of good blocks on the play. Tim (Grunhard) got a good block and Joe got one and they were able to get me open."

The Steelers (5-9) finished with 376 total yards. Pittsburgh has lost six straight games.

Notes

* Blockin' Barndt: Kansas City's Tom Barndt blocked Brown's 49-yard field goal attempt near the end of the first quarter. It was the first block of Barndt's career.

* Quarterback Controversy?: Tomczak passed for 278 yards by completing 23-of-46 attempts with two touchdown passes, but also threw four interceptions.

Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher, who replaced slumping quarterback Kordell Stewart with Tomczak midway through the season, said he planned to keep Tomczak at quarterback. Stewart will continue to be used as a wide receiver.

"You can't throw touchdowns for interceptions in this business," Cowher said. "But I thought Mike did some good things for us, and I do not foresee a change at this time."

* Banged up Bam: Morris, who has been having problems with a sore shoulder, rushed for 71 yards on 17 carries, including a 10-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

Morris said that his shoulder was still sore before the game, but felt it was his responsibility to be available to the team because of other injuries at that position. The Chiefs' Donnell Bennett was not active for the game because of an ankle injury.

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