Chiefs salute owner Hunt with Thanksgiving winNov 24, 2006 - 4:28 AM KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Ticker) -- Lamar Hunt was unable to attend the Thanksgiving game he had long lobbied for. Larry Johnson and Lawrence Tynes made it a memorable holiday for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Johnson again played the role of workhorse with 157 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries and Lawrence Tynes kicked four field goals to lead the Chiefs to a 19-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in a battle of AFC West rivals.
The win was the fifth in six games for the Chiefs (7-4) and moved them into a tie with Denver (7-4) for second place in the AFC West, 1 1/2 games behind first-place San Diego.
Hunt, the founder and owner of the Chiefs, has long wanted his team to be involved in a Thanksgiving rotation with the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. But the NFL had consistently rebuffed him until finally awarding the Chiefs their first Thanksgiving night game.
Unfortunately, the 74-year-old Hunt could not attend for health reasons. Chiefs president Carl Peterson confirmed that Hunt was in a Dallas hospital. His condition is not life-threatening.
"Lamar Hunt for 37 years has tried to bring a Thanksgiving game to Kansas City," Peterson said. "It's a tragedy he couldn't be here tonight for as long as he wanted this game to happen. Nobody deserved this more than Lamar Hunt."
It was quite a festive event at Arrowhead Stadium with a paid crowd of 79,484, the fifth highest in the facility's history.
"The fitting tribute for Lamar was what happened in that stadium tonight," Peterson said. "In typical Lamar Hunt fashion, he apologized to us for not being here tonight. But Lamar said he would be here in spirit and he was. There's nothing better to get him well than this win."
Kansas City last hosted a Thanksgiving game in 1969 in the old American Football League, victimizing the Broncos in that one as well, 31-17. Len Dawson was the quarterback and Buck Buchanan and Willie Lanier were the stars on defense.
This Chiefs team revolves around Johnson, the reigning AFC rushing champion who leads the league in rushing this season with 1,202 yards.
Denver entered the game ranked fifth in the NFL against the run, yielding a little more than 90 yards a game. But the Chiefs pulverized the Broncos on the ground for 223 yards. Even backup Michael Bennett produced 56 yards on just two carries.
"It's always a challenge going against them because they have a bunch of first-round draft picks on the defensive line," said Johnson, who rushed for more than 150 yards in a game for the fourth time this season.
"Larry is a young player with great upside who wants to be the best," Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said. "I believe you give your best player the ball. In big games, your best players better touch the ball."
Meanwhile, the Broncos, who entered ranked third in the league in rushing at 142.3 yards per game, managed just 38 yards on 16 carries.
Denver again played without leading rusher Tatum Bell (649 yards), who is bothered by turf toe. Rookie free agent Mike Bell was limited to 28 yards on 10 carries.
Speculation swirled before the game that the Broncos were contemplating making a quarterback change from Jake Plummer to rookie Jay Cutler. In perhaps his last game as the starter, Plummer was 25-of-39 for 216 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
"I haven't heard anything from the coach," said Plummer, who fell to 0-6 here. "The media starts this stuff because that's their job. If I was ever a quitter, I never would have made it this far. I'm ready to keep pushing, keep fighting."
Plummer's second pass of the game deflected off the left hand of tight end Stephen Alexander and was intercepted by cornerback Ty Law at the Denver 46.
Trent Green hit Eddie Kennison with a 16-yard pass and connected with Dante Hall on a 10-yard play. But the Chiefs stalled at the Denver 6 and settled for a 24-yard field goal by Tynes with 9:35 left in the first quarter.
The Chiefs put together a 13-play, 88-yard drive which consumed more than 7 1/2 minutes of the second quarter. Johnson rushed for 32 of those yards and Bennett broke off a 15-yard run. Johnson capped it with a one-yard run - his 13th touchdown of the season - with 3:03 left in the first half.
Denver finally scored on its fifth possession, when Plummer completed 8-of-11 passes for 68 yards. Javon Walker caught four of them for 41 yards to help set up a 31-yard field goal by Jason Elam with 14 seconds remaining in the half.
"I thought we had some momentum there," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "They scored to start the second half and took it back."
Green connected with Samie Parker on a 31-yard pass to set up a 34-yard field goal by Tynes 3:40 into the third quarter, increasing Kansas City's lead to 13-3.
The Broncos got a huge break on their first possession of the second half. Cornerback Patrick Surtain intercepted a pass by Plummer and returned it 39 yards to the Denver 17. But the interception was nullified by an illegal contact penalty against former Bronco cornerback Lenny Walls.
On the next play, Plummer connected with David Kircus on a 36-yard pass. Six plays later, Plummer lofted a one-yard touchdown to Alexander, who made a leaping catch in the left corner of the end zone with 6:21 left in the third quarter to pull the Broncos within 13-10.
The Chiefs responded with an 11-play drive that lasted nearly 6 1/2 minutes. Johnson rushed six times for 36 yards before Tynes kicked a 29-yard field goal four seconds into the fourth quarter.
"We had drives that bogged down in the red zone," Edwards said. "But give some credit to their defense. They have a very good defense."
Tynes kicked his fourth field goal - a 21-yarder - with 2:42 left in the fourth quarter to cap a 10-play, 86-yard drive. Green hit Parker with a 26-yard pass and Bennett broke off a 41-yard run.
"This win was for Lamar Hunt," said Green, who was 13-of-22 for 161 yards. "We know how hard he worked to make this game happen and it was real special."
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