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Chiefs spoil Leinart's first career start

Oct 9, 2006 - 12:03 AM GLENDALE, Arizona (Ticker) -- Matt Leinart's first career start ended in disappointment.

Leinart nearly engineered a tying drive in the fourth quarter before Neil Rackers missed a 51-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in the Arizona Cardinals' 23-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Cardinals coach Dennis Green made the move to try to spark his struggling offense by naming Leinart - the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner at Southern California - his starter over Kurt Warner following last week's 32-10 loss at Atlanta.

"Matt did some very good things out there," Green said. "He was very game as far as trying to help us win the ballgame. He showed good poise. He had a very good day."

For three quarters, the move looked like it would work as the Cardinals (1-4) built a 20-10 lead behind their rookie quarterback who threw for two touchdowns.

"I thought I did some things good," Leinart said. "It almost became a guessing game because they were showing a lot of things and trying to make me think."

Damon Huard threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Samie Parker less than two minutes into the fourth before Leinart was intercepted by five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law at the Arizona 22 with 5:53 remaining.

"The interception was the right read," Leinart said. "I probably should've checked the ball down. Ty Law sat on the route and jumped in front of it. I have to learn not to force something and take what the defense gives you."

"I jumped it. It was just one of those things I felt was coming," Law said. "It was my opportunity to make a play and I guessed right."

Leinart's miscue led to a 40-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes that tied the game at 20-20.

After Huard hit running back Larry Johnson with a 78-yard screen pass to set up Tynes' 19-yard field goal with 1:36 left that gave the Chiefs a 23-20 lead, Leinart was given a final chance.

Johnson suffered a neck strain on the longest reception of his career after cornerback Antrel Rolle's scary tackle in which he twisted Johnson's head by the facemask. Johnson was down for a few minutes before he wobbled to the sidelines.

"I don't even remember maybe a couple of seconds of it," Johnson said. "All I remember was trying to get back on my feet and trying to move around to see if everything was working."

"Larry made a big play for us and that's what wins games," Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said. "Your big players have to make big plays.

Working without a timeout and starting from his own 9, Leinart led the Cardinals to the Chiefs 33. He had completions of 16 yards to Bryant Johnson and 26 yards to Troy Walters on the march.

Leinart got to the line and killed the clock after the completion to Walters, bringing on their Pro Bowl kicker who missed wide right.

Leinart completed 22-of-35 passes for 253 yards.

Huard went 26-of-38 for 288 yards and two scores for the Chiefs (2-2), who have won two straight after an 0-2 start.

"You just keep fighting and plugging away," Huard said. "It is a long game. We knew we were going to get some touches, some possessions. We did it today because we didn't panic. The pressure was on but we didn't panic."

The day got off to a rousing start for Leinart, who found Anquan Boldin open the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown on the Cardinals' fourth play from scrimmage.

After Huard lost a fumble on Kansas City's opening possession at the Arizona 41, Leinart again went to work.

Leinart had an 11-yard completion to Bryant Johnson to the Chiefs 9. Three plays later, the lefthander found Larry Fitzgerald over the middle for a five-yard TD to give the Cardinals a 14-0 lead with 6:12 left in the first quarter.

Fitzgerald left the game later in the second quarter with an injured right hamstring, an injury that looks to be serious.

"I just felt it pop on me," Fitzgerald said. "I will get an MRI tomorrow. I couldn't straighten out my leg so I knew I couldn't play."

Tynes got the Chiefs on the board with a 45-yard field goal with 12:01 left in the first half.

The Chiefs then received a big play from their special teams as rookie Bernard Pollard blocked a punt by Scott Player.

Three plays later, Huard found Johnson for a nine-yard TD to pull the Chiefs within 14-10 with 3:26 left in the first half.

"Getting behind by 14 points I always tell guys you have to keep your poise," Edwards said. "All you have to do is make a couple of plays and you get back in the game."

Johnson was shut down in the running game as he managed just 36 yards on 16 carries. However, he had six receptions for 106 yards.

Johnson also lost a fumble at his own 32 with 1:32 left in the first half, setting up Rackers' 41-yard field goal that gave the Cardinals a 17-10 lead.

The Chiefs also contained Edgerrin James, holding him to 71 yards rushing on 24 attempts.

Rackers converted a 45-yard field goal with 10:06 left in the third quarter, giving Arizona a 20-10 advantage.

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