Schedule Saved Kansas City
One thing this game illustrated is that timing is of considerable importance in NFL scheduling.
Had the Chiefs played the St. Louis game in the first two or three weeks of the season, it seems likely that they would have then run the ball as usual.
In keeping with their ingrained style, they would have run it too often until it was too late--as other Ram opponents this year have.
You can be sure that a month ago, after opening a 20-0 lead on the Rams, the Chiefs would have forsaken passes, generally, except on third and long.
For this has always been the Cunningham mind-set.
The Chiefs in that case would have been just another bunch learning the hard way that a running team can't keep up with a passing team.
Cunningham had to be persuaded that passing was the only way to go, and clearly he needed to see the Rams five or six times to make that judgment.
A schedule that placed the Ram game at mid-season rather than in the early season may have saved the Chiefs' season.
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There Is a Time to Run
For both teams, running plays were, of course, part of the game plan.
But the key to Ram football, which the Chiefs were for the first time also playing, is when do you run? When do you pass?
In the final reckoning, the Chiefs gained more than 100 yards on the ground that day--but as a rule, they were running not on first-down plays but in passing situations.
They had found that the best running play is a draw play on a passing down.
Ram football has seldom been exhibited more conspicuously than it was by the Chiefs at the outset of the third quarter, when, with a 27-14 halftime lead that would have seemed comfortable to Cunningham in the old days, he grounded his ball-control ballcarriers and opened an aggressive, fast-moving passing attack.
To be specific, on Kansas City's long touchdown drive that time, Grbac did nothing but throw passes, and he completed three big ones in a row.
All three went through a bemused Ram team playing run defense, and all were thrown to the same wide receiver, Derrick Alexander, the last for a touchdown that moved Kansas City from 27-14 to 34-14.
Those three plays demonstrated Cunningham's new awareness that even with a two-touchdown lead, you have to keep passing against a good passing team or, shortly, it will bite you.