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Archive for Tuesday, December 26, 2000

Chiefs humbled in season finale

Tight end Gonzalez tries to have merry Christmas despite flop in Atlanta

December 26, 2000

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— The Kansas City Chiefs didn't have anything to play for but a .500 season. Still, this was embarrassing.

With a chance to close a disappointing season by winning three straight games, the Chiefs were blown out by one of the NFL's worst teams Sunday, losing 29-13 to the Atlanta Falcons.

Chris Chandler returned from the bench to throw a pair of touchdown passes, Morten Andersen kicked five field goals and the Falcons swarmed all over the Chiefs' offense to snap a six-game losing steak.

"I can't stand it," Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez said. "I feel we're a better team than they are. That's a team we're supposed to beat."

Marty Carter sealed Atlanta's first victory in almost two months by blindsiding Elvis Grbac on a blitz, forcing a fumble that Darrick Vaughn recovered at the 8 with 7:45 left.

Chandler followed with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brian Kozlowski for a 26-7 lead.

The Falcons (4-12) avoided the franchise record for most losses in a season, falling one short. Of course, they probably made the rebuilding job a little tougher by hurting their draft position.

Kansas City (7-9), which had nine straight winning seasons from 1989-97, also has some work to do. Considered a playoff contender, the Chiefs slumped to their second losing mark in the last three years.

"I'm trying not to let this ruin my Christmas," Gonzalez said. "This team is not a 7-9 team. Not at all."

The Falcons held Kansas City to 259 yards 73 coming on a meaningless touchdown drive at the end of the game and sacked Grbac four times. Meanwhile, Jamal Anderson helped Atlanta control the clock for more than 41 minutes by rushing for 107 yards.

"We wanted to go into the offseason on a positive note," said Anderson, who finished with 1,024 yards in his comeback season following knee surgery. "Everyone has been disappointed about the way things have gone this season, but we wanted to get back to the way we used to play football."

Like the way they did two seasons ago, when the Falcons reached the Super Bowl for the first time. Since then, Atlanta is 9-23.

"It was not a good season. I didn't enjoy it," said Falcons coach Dan Reeves, who plans to return next year. "But it can help. We learned a lot about ourselves."

Chandler was dropped to third team after a 41-14 loss to Oakland on Nov. 26. But he handled the demotion well and was back in the lineup for the finale, completing 20 of 29 passes for 163 yards.

"I was able to come out feeling fresh physically, and I was definitely feeling better mentally," he said. "When you're on the bench, you're able to sit back and watch the different aspects of the game. You also realize how important this game is to you."

Chandler threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Jefferson on Atlanta's opening possession. The drive was extended when the Chiefs were called for holding, wiping out their block of Andersen's first field goal attempt.

The Atlanta kicker was perfect the rest of the way, hitting from 24, 48, 42, 23 and 36 yards to tie his career best. Eight times before, he kicked five field goals in a game, including this year's opener.

One bright spot for Kansas City: Gonzalez became the third tight end in NFL history to have 90 receptions in a season when he caught a 21-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter. Joining Ben Coates and Todd Christensen, Gonzalez wound up with 93 catches for the season.

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