NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Being perfect is what matters most in the NFL, as Chiefs coach Andy Reid knows only too well.
No matter how ugly some of those wins may be.
Jamaal Charles scored a 1-yard touchdown with 6:23 left, and the Chiefs rallied to beat the Tennessee Titans 26-17 on Sunday.
“We are 5-0, and we’re not ashamed of that,” Reid said. “We also know that we’ve got a ton of room to improve and it’s important that we continue to do that.”
The Chiefs (5-0) are off to their best start since 2003, when they won their first nine games. This win came despite blowing a 13-0 halftime lead in this early AFC showdown between these surprising teams bouncing back after losing seasons, and Charles called this a special win.
“I am speechless right now,” Charles said. “This team is very blessed to be 5-0 right now. Nobody expected us to be 5-0.”
The Titans (3-2) couldn’t have been more out of synch in the first half with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting for Jake Locker sidelined with his sprained right hip. He missed his first five passes and went three-and-out on his first five series before guiding Tennessee to 17 straight points in the second half.
Charles put the Chiefs ahead to stay 20-17. He finished with 50 of his 108 yards on 22 carries coming in the fourth quarter on 11 carries. The Chiefs also intercepted Fitzpatrick twice in the final 6:14. Ryan Succop kicked four field goals, including a 48-yarder.
The Titans had one last chance needing to score twice and sent Rob Bironas out for a 32-yard field goal. But Bironas missed wide right, and time expired.
“The bottom line is we found a way back into that game and had an opportunity to go up by more than four and we didn’t do that,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said.
Now Kansas City heads home for a three-game stretch, though the Chiefs had plenty of support on the road in Nashville.
“I thought the fans controlled that lower bowl there and we heard them and we appreciate all that support that they were able to give us, especially down the stretch there,” Reid said.
The Chiefs and Titans came in tied atop the NFL with a plus-9 turnover margin, but it was Kansas City that forced three turnovers and turned those into 13 points. The Chiefs also had a goal-line stand at their own 1 late in the first half. The Titans forced two they managed to convert into a touchdown.
Kansas City dominated early with a 132-10 edge in total offense in the first quarter and was up 13-0 at halftime on a rainy day in Nashville. The goal-line stand also proved huge as the Chiefs not only stopped the Titans four times from their own 1 but drove for another field goal.
Fitzpatrick looked rusty in his first start since being in Buffalo last season, and his new teammates weren’t much help. Chris Johnson finished with only 17 yards rushing on 10 carries.
But Fitzpatrick outgained the Chiefs all by himself in the third quarter in keying the Titans’ rally. He flipped the ball to Johnson for a 49-yard TD. He also scrambled 9 yards for a TD giving the Titans a 17-13 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Titans also settled for a 22-yard field goal by Bironas after having first-and-goal in the third.
“We had to gear down and somebody had to make a play, stop the snowball from rolling downhill, and we did,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said.
The Chiefs’ go-ahead drive was keyed by an unnecessary roughness flag on Titans linebacker Moises Fokou for hitting Alex Smith as the quarterback scrambled on third-and-5. Smith only picked up 2 yards and was hit at the sideline, and the flag gave the Chiefs first down.
“If you’re not sliding, to me, you’re not giving yourself up,” Munchak said of Smith. “He wasn’t sliding.”
Marcus Cooper wrestled the ball away from Nate Washington with 6:14 left, and Quintin Demps picked off a pass that bounced off Titans receiver Kendall Wright with 2:39 left. Succop kicked field goals of 33 and 48 yards after each to pad the lead.
Cooper put the Chiefs up 7-0 when he recovered the ball in the end zone after the ball brushed up against Titans blocker Damian Williams before dribbling to the end zone — Tennessee’s first turnover this season.
Notes: Titans LB Zach Brown hurt his right knee and twice went to the sideline. Titans DE Derrick Morgan hurt his shoulder late. … Chiefs WR Donnie Avery hurt a shoulder himself in the first half but returned. … The Chiefs now have scored 50 points off turnovers this season and the Titans 52.