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Chiefs stumble, but refuse to fall

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- After taking a 21-0 lead, the Kansas City Chiefs never dreamed they would later boast about not giving up.

It was that kind of game. One win away from tying Seattle for the AFC West lead, the Chiefs needed Eric Hicks' 44-yard fumble return and Pete Stoyanovich's 38-yard field goal in a wild fourth quarter Sunday night to nail down a 31-28 victory over Minnesota.

Pete Stoyanovich
Pete Stoyanovich's winning field goal sails over the arms of Vikings John Burrough, left, Carlester Crumpler, center, and Duane Clemons.
"Mentally, very draining. For both teams it was a playoff situation," said Elvis Grbac, who hit five of six passes in the final minute to set up Stoyanovich with three seconds left for his second game-winner in three weeks.

Seemingly out of the playoff chase after losing three straight, the Chiefs (8-5) have won three in a row while the Seahawks have lost their last three.

The Vikings (7-6), who have lost two straight after a five-game winning streak, lost star wide receiver Cris Carter to a serious ankle injury while the Chiefs led 21-7 in the second.

But they returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdown and were in position to force overtime before Grbac and Stoyanovich settled matters.

"Two weeks ago ... we didn't know what was going on," said Stoyanovich, who hit a 44-yard game-winner at Oakland on Nov. 28. "Our playoff hopes looked really dim."

Minnesota's Randy Moss, making up for two fourth-quarter fumbles, returned Daniel Pope's punt 64 yards to tie it at 28 with 1:38 left.

With 8:01 to go, in a fourth period that saw wild momentum swings on both sides, Kansas City's Eric Hicks returned Jeff George's fumble 44 yards for a touchdown to put the Chiefs up 28-21.

"The way we lost was tough," said George, who had not completed a pass when the Chiefs led 21-0 early in the second period. "We have three games left. We have to continue to work hard.".

The teams exchanged fumbles on consecutive plays deep in Vikings territory before Derrick Thomas sacked George and forced him to fumble. Hicks, a 280-pound defensive end, picked it up and outran all pursuers for the Chiefs' first TD since the first seconds of the second quarter.

"I guess when Cris went down they were expecting a lot out of myself to go out and make it happen," said Moss, who had five catches for 76 yards.

"It is kind of hard to fumble the ball away when you are not at home and you don't have the crowd behind you. We made a great effort to come back."

Scoring on their first three possessions, the Chiefs had a 21-0 lead before George completed his first pass.

Vikings coach Dennis Green said it is uncertain when Cris Carter will return from his ankle injury.
Minnesota's Orlando Thomas was inactive with a hamstring injury. Antonio Banks started at strong safety and Robert Griffith moved from strong safety to free safety.
The second touchdown catch by Tony Gonzalez was his eighth of the season, tying a record for Kansas City tight ends set by Fred Arbanas in 1984.
Bam Morris started his third straight game at running back for the Chiefs -- Rashaan Shehee was inactive with knee and ankle injuries.
Minnesota end Chris Doleman got his seventh sack of the season and has 148.5 in his career, fourth-most in NFL history.
The Kansas City defense has scored 49 points this season, most for the Chiefs since the 1992 defense had 56.

But then Robert Tate romped 76 yards for the only touchdown kickoff return the Chiefs have allowed in 10 years.

Still, the Chiefs led 21-7 at that point and all George had done was lose a fumble and get sacked twice.

But George, who came into the game 0-5 with 21 sacks in his career against Kansas City, tied it at 21 with an 8-yard TD pass to Matthew Hatchette near the end of the second quarter, and a 12-yard strike to Moss late in the third.

"We had to overcome the three-game losing stretch but we have three wins in a row now," said Chiefs' coach Gunther Cunningham. "What we're trying to do is build something, not for now but down the future."

Following tight end Tony Gonzalez's second touchdown catch just 13 seconds into the second quarter, Tate took the ball on the 24 and ran up the middle. He shook off Carlton Gray on the 50 and ran untouched for Minnesota's first score.

Both teams missed medium-range field goals and then in the final minute of the half, faced with fourth-and-2 from the 32, George hit Moss with a 19-yard pass to the 13.

Two plays later, Hatchette -- who came in for Carter -- beat James Hasty for an 8-yard touchdown catch that made it 21-14.

Jake Reed caught passes for 15 and 18 yards on a 14-play, 74-yard drive, capped by Moss' TD catch with 4:34 left in the third.

George fumbled the snap on the third play of the game and Dan Williams fell on the ball on the Vikings 47. Grbac hit Andre Rison for gains of 6 and 11 yards before Donnell Bennett scored on a 2-yard plunge.

On their next possession, the Chiefs moved 62 yards in six plays, with Grbac hitting Joe Horn for 30 yards on third-and-9 to set up Gonzalez's 13-yard TD catch.

A 30-yard pass-interference penalty on Kenny Wright helped the Chiefs sustain a four-play, 53-yard march at the end of the quarter, capped by Grbac's perfectly thrown 9-yard pass into the corner of the end zone for Gonzalez.


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