10-15-2007 1:25 AM
By DOUG TUCKER, AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Associated Press) -- Kansas City's sickly offense found an easy way to get well _ just stay home and let one of the league's weakest defenses find you.
Tony Gonzalez set the NFL record for touchdown catches by a tight end and the Chiefs rolled up an impressive _ for them _ 354 total yards Sunday en route to a 27-20 victory over the downward-spiraling Cincinnati Bengals.
The first sign that things would improve for the Chiefs (3-3) came on their first play from scrimmage, when frustrated Pro Bowler Larry Johnson gained 9 yards, just one short of the team's entire embarrassing rushing total the week before.
Gonzalez, the eight-time Pro Bowler, caught Damon Huard's 3-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and broke Shannon Sharpe's NFL record of 62 touchdown catches for tight ends. Then Gonzalez snared a 26-yard scoring pass from Huard in the fourth period and wound up with 102 yards receiving.
Johnson, who had not scored a touchdown after sitting out all of training camp, got 119 yards on 31 carries against a defense that had been giving up 152 yards on the ground. After his mistake cost the Chiefs a touchdown in the second quarter, he dropped to his knees on the sideline and bowed his head for several minutes.
A couple of minutes later, after a Carson Palmer interception, Johnson slipped into the end zone on an 8-yard touchdown run and the Chiefs had a 17-7 lead.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught eight passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns for Cincinnati (1-4), but could not make up for a suspect defense that was further weakened by the loss of linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Rashad Jeanty and the suspension of cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Bengals, who have gone 1-7 since being 8-5 last year and holding a one-game lead in the wild-card chase.
The Bengals were 0-for-10 on third down conversions until finally getting their first on a 20-yard pass to Houshmandzadeh in the final 3 1/2 minutes.
Facing a third-and-10 with 22 seconds left, the Bengals had Shayne Graham kick a 36-yard field goal to slice the lead to seven points and give themselves a chance to get the ball back on an onside kick. But the Chiefs recovered, preserving the win.
Cincinnati's offensive line, weakened by Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson missing his first start in 119 games, had its hands full trying to keep the Chiefs out of Palmer's lap. Defensive end Jared Allen had 2 1/2 of the Chiefs' four sacks and frequently pressured Palmer into throwing early or poorly, or both.
Allen has six sacks in four games since returning from a suspension. He and Tamba Hali sacked Palmer on third-and-4 in the first quarter and seven plays later, on third-and-goal-from the 3, Gonzalez got his record-breaking TD.
Johnson, in the second quarter, burst through a big hole from the 35 and was one step from the end zone when Deltha O'Neal reached around and knocked the ball loose. It rolled through the end zone for a touchback and Johnson quickly returned to the sideline and dropped to his knees.
But 2 minutes later, Patrick Surtain intercepted Palmer's pass and Huard hit Gonzalez for 17 yards and Dwayne Bowe for 12, then Johnson went around left end for an 8-yard TD run.
Palmer was 26-of-43 for 320 yards and hit Houshmandzadeh with touchdown passes of 42 and 30 yards, the last with 5:03 left to answer Gonzalez's second TD and make it 27-10. It was Houshmandzadeh's third straight 100-yard receiving game.
Aided by two 15-yard penalties, the Chiefs moved 49 yards for Dave Rayner's 32-yard field goal on their first possession _ their first lead in the first half of any game this year.
Huard, whose injured shoulder led to speculation all week that he would not start, was 25-of-35 for 264 yards.
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