Kansas City, Mo. Three straight losses, an offense that couldn’t punch it into the end zone — the frustration started to boil over for Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Matt Cassel had just spiked the ball on third down to force another field goal, and the quarterback was greeted at the sideline by coach Todd Haley. An animated conversation ensued, some choice words exchanged, the TV cameras catching all of it in gory detail.
Whatever message Haley delivered must have been received.
Cassel hit Dwayne Bowe for a 52-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass, Ryan Succop was perfect on five field-goal attempts, and the Chiefs held off the Minnesota Vikings, 22-17.
“It’s just part of the game,” Cassel said of the sideline flare-up. “You hug, you make up, you do high-fives and you just move on to the next play. It’s part of football.”
So is winning, something neither team had experienced before Sunday.
The Chiefs lost to Buffalo 41-7 in their opener and were trounced 48-3 at Detroit, before nearly rallying in a 20-17 loss to San Diego. The miserable start had some fans calling for Haley and general manager Scott Pioli to be fired.
The heat is off them for a week.
It’s still on Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.
Minnesota squandered first-half leads each of its first three games, and this time couldn’t hang on after Ryan Longwell’s field goal in the third quarter pushed them ahead.
The Vikings are 0-4 for the first time since 2002.
“We’ve got to re-evaluate everything,” Frazier said simply.
Succop’s field goals included a career-long 54-yarder, and his total matched Jan Stenerud and Nick Lowery for the single-game franchise record.
His accurate right leg had staked Kansas City (1-3) to a 15-10 lead by the start of the fourth quarter. Cassel dropped back to pass and saw Bowe get around Cedric Griffin, who slipped just after the snap, and hit his Pro Bowl wide receiver in stride.
Bowe made a pirouette to get around safety Jamarca Sanford, then broke Griffen’s tackle, and trotted the last couple of yards for the touchdown.
“It was a simple play, a simple hitch-and-go route,” Bowe said. “Coach told me, ‘If I call this, will you score?’ And I told him, ‘Coach, all you have to do is put it in my hands.’”
Cassel said the Chiefs saw a weakness in the Minnesota defense and drew the play up on the fly, just like a bunch of kids on a school-yard playground.
“It was a great adjustment by our coaching staff,” he said. “They saw that they were jumping some of those routes, intermediate routes, so we thought we had an opportunity.”
The Vikings answered with a 13-play drive that Donovan McNabb capped with a short pass to Michael Jenkins for Minnesota’s first second-half touchdown of the season.
The defense held to give McNabb time to mount a potential game-winning drive, but after picking up a first down, four straight incompletions effectively ended the game.
“It’s frustrating. We’ve got to go back and do the same thing we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks and try to find a solution,” McNabb said.
McNabb finished 18 of 30 for 202 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while Adrian Peterson carried 23 times for 80 yards in another underwhelming performance.
Kansas City’s defense set the tone early, forcing Minnesota to go three-and-out on its opening possession. Succop’s 40-yard field goal gave Kansas City its first lead all season.
McNabb answered with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Devin Aromashodu, who beat Brandon Carr down the sideline and laid out to make a spectacular catch, and looked like it would build on the 7-3 lead by marching deep into Chiefs territory.
After a sack by Tamba Hali set up third-and-long, McNabb’s pass was tipped by running back Toby Gerhart and intercepted by Carr. The Chiefs struck with a 42-yard completion to Steve Breaston, but the drive fizzled before they could cross the goal line.
Cassel didn’t see Breaston open in the end zone on second down, and he chucked the ball into the turf on the third down. When he trotted over to Haley on the sideline, their heated conversation ensued, with a few expletives crossing their lips on television.
“Matt and I and a number of others who really, passionately care about trying to make this team special, you’re going to have some emotion and feeling,” Haley said. “Like I said, Matt, great response, and how he played, and that’s No. 1. That’s all that matters.”
Notes: McNabb’s touchdown pass was his 233rd, breaking a tie with Steve Young for 21st on the career list. ... Hali finished with two sacks. ... Vikings DE Jared Allen had a pair of sacks against his former team, and has five in his last two games.