NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Kansas City Chiefs are still perfect thanks to an old-fashioned mix of a good running game and some very timely defense.
Jamaal Charles scored a 1-yard touchdown with 6:23 left, and the Chiefs rallied to beat the Tennessee Titans 26-17 on Sunday.
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.
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, and he finished with 108 yards on 22 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 he missed wide right, and time expired.
Now Kansas City now gets to head home for a three-game stretch and try to continue this amazing start under new coach Andy Reid.
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 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.
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.
Tennessee forced the Chiefs three-and-out, and the Titans drove for a 22-yard field goal by Bironas. Bernard Pollard intercepted Alex Smith's pass that just glanced off Charles' fingertips. It was only Smith's third interception this season after not turning it over once through the first three games.
The Chiefs' go-ahead drive was keyed by an unnecessary roughness flag on Titans linebacker Moises Fokou for a hit on Smith as the quarterback scrambled on third-and-5. Smith only picked up 2 yards and was hit at the sideline, and officials threw the flag giving the Chiefs first down.
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.