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Examiner
  • Young players show way for Chiefs

  • The young turks on the Kansas City Chiefs know they have been thrust to the front line of the team’s rebuilding effort.

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  • The young turks on the Kansas City Chiefs know they have been thrust to the front line of the team’s rebuilding effort.
    In a quest to find the “right 53,” head coach Todd Haley and staff have entrusted some relatively fresh legs with major responsibilities.
    So, when third-year cornerback Brandon Flowers’ acrobatic interception of San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith’s pass early in the second quarter set up a an acrobatic touchdown catch and run from rookie Dexter McCluster, the Chiefs’ emphasis on speed and youth was duly noted.
    Young players were all the rage in front of 68,188 spectators Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, as the undefeated Chiefs rolled to a 31-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
    “We’ve still got a lot to learn,” McCluster said of the Chiefs’ younger players. “We’ve got a lot of veterans around us that are doing some great things. We just want to go out there and play as hard as we can, and when our number’s called, we want to be ready.”
    McCluster’s involvement in the Chiefs’ biggest plays of the afternoon was another step in the right direction for a team now 3-0 on the season. Not only did the first-year player from Mississippi get the Chiefs on the board first after Flowers’ pick with a 31-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Matt Cassel with 10:52 to go in the second quarter, the speed burner was also instrumental on the Chiefs’ drive late in the second quarter that ended in a Ryan Succop missed field goal from 38 yards out.
    McCluster had two catches for 38 yards on the drive.
    “The whole offense came out and we started fast,” McCluster said. “Once we got up, we didn’t let up. We wanted to keep driving and keep driving. We ran and passed the ball great today and I think that was the key to our success.”
    McCluster was also a key man on a 45-yard reverse touchdown pass from Cassel to Dwayne Bowe at the 10:21 mark of the third quarter. The San Francisco defense bit hard after Thomas Jones took a direct snap from center and handed off to McCluster, who flipped to Cassel for the connection to Bowe, who got behind the 49ers’ defense for a 17-3 Chiefs’ lead.
    McCluster later added a 30-yard punt return in the fourth quarter that ended with the 5-foot-8, 172 pounder bowling over San Francisco punter Andy Lee near the Chiefs’ sideline.
    “They say that was swagged out,” McCluster said of his teammates’ reaction to leveling Lee. “They wanted a finish and I think I finished on that one.”
    Another young player, the people’s choice at running back Jamaal Charles, was also a factor against San Francisco. Charles rushed for 97 yards on 12 carries, including three carries for 42 yards in the first quarter and two receptions for 35 yards late in the second that set up a 32-yard field goal attempt from Succop. Succop’s kick gave the Chiefs a 10-3 lead at halftime.
    Page 2 of 3 - Charles added a 22-yard reception in the third quarter and his backfield mate, the elder statesman Jones, added 95 yards on 19 carries and scored his first touchdown for the Chiefs that pushed Kansas City’s lead to 31-3 with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
    First-year tight end Tony Moeaki got in on the big plays as well for the Chiefs, hauling in a one-handed, 18-yard touchdown pass from Cassel in the third quarter. The pass gave Cassel his first three-touchdown game as a Chief and put Kansas City up 24-3.
    Cassel finished 16-of-27 passing for 250 yards to go along with the three touchdowns and an interception.
    “It feels really good to go into that locker room and you’re 3-0,” Cassel said.
    Of all the youngsters on the Chiefs’ roster, the most impressive Sunday may have been Flowers, who may not be yet considered a shut-down corner, but has play-making abilities second-to-none in the Kansas City secondary. He finished the game with two tackles and three pass defended to go along with his interception. Flowers allowed just one catch against the 49ers.
    “Right now, I feel very confident out there,” Flowers said. “I can’t hype my own self up. People have to recognize what I’m doing on the field. I don’t get to wrapped up in if my name is out there or if it’s not.
    “I just go out there and try to be a leader on this defense. When a play comes my way, make sure they ain’t catching no balls over there. That’s all I can do. I gave one up. That can’t happen no more.”
    Flowers and the rest of the Chiefs’ defense held in check the 49ers’ big-play combo of running back Frank Gore and tight end Vernon Davis. Gore finished with 43 yards on 15 carries and Davis, who guaranteed a win against the Chiefs – caught just three passes for 22 yards. Outside linebacker Tambi Hali had a career high three sacks and defensive end Shaun Smith added four tackles to help stymie the 49ers’ offense.
    “It just felt good playing football,” said Smith, who replaced injured Tyson Jackson in the starting lineup. “I had my mom come in town for the game, and that was a little bit more inspiration to keep playing hard right now.
    “We were just trying to get to 3-0. We’re 3-0 going into the bye, we’ll get some guys healthy and keep going.”
    With a bye next Sunday, the Chiefs head into their break with a 3-0 record and road games against the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans looming. Haley compared the first three weeks of the season and the next couple of weeks to a good round of golf.
    Page 3 of 3 - “Since I’ve started coaching, I’ve broken the season down into quarters,” Haley said, stating quarter goals include three wins out of four games. That’s the way I break my golf scorecard out – three holes at a time.
    “If you can make 12 then you have a chance to shoot a 36 through nine holes. And if you just kept making 12 one set of three holes than you might have 14 and the next set you might have 10. But, I knew if I broke it up like that, I’d have a chance of not getting too high or too low. That’s just what I’ve done for a long time and I believe in it and I’ll stay believing in that.”
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