Locker-less Titans try to derail unbeaten Chiefs

( - Now that their unbeaten start has endured through the first quarter of the 2013 NFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs are facing the inevitable questions about resting on their laurels.

But to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, those queries are forgetting one valuable element. The Chiefs played so badly and suffered so much through a disastrous 2-14 debacle in 2012 that the idea of looking backward has essentially been purged from their competitive souls.

"Every day we go day-by-day," he said, "and right now we're 4-0 and the target is on our back, and we have to keep pushing. The team is totally in, the coaches, the players. It's all a family right now. We're a family organization. On all three sides of the ball we're doing good."

Kansas City can get to five straight out of the gate for the first time in a decade on Sunday, when they visit Nashville's LP Field for a date with the almost as surprising Tennessee Titans.

The 2-14 record last year was the worst in Chiefs history.

By contrast, a win this weekend will mean Kansas City is more than halfway to equaling that 2003 start -- which saw them go 9-0 en route to a 13-3 finish and an AFC West Division title. In nine seasons since, the team has reached 10 wins twice and won four or fewer games four times.

It would also be the first time that a team won two or fewer games one year, then began the next year with five consecutive victories.

Win No. 4 came courtesy of the freefalling New York Giants, whom coach Andy Reid faced many times during his long stint in Philadelphia. Kansas City took the first matchup of his Chiefs stay, 31-7, while getting three TD passes from Alex Smith and 65 ground yards from Jamaal Charles.

Charles totaled 117 yards and scored two times, and Bowe had 153 yards and one TD against Tennessee in 2010.

Charles is third in the league with 125.5 scrimmage yards per game, while Smith is a win away from becoming the first Kansas City quarterback since Mike Livingston in 1969 to win his first five starts with the team.

"(Charles) wants the ball, which you appreciate," Reid said. "I really appreciated it after I saw his feet and the blisters on them. The kid is a tough kid. He likes to play."

Other injury concerns come in the form of right tackle Eric Fisher -- the first pick in April's draft -- who suffered a concussion and is iffy for the Titans game; and punter Dustin Colquitt, who sprained his knee.

As a unit, the Chiefs are 11th in the league in scoring offense (25.5 points per game) and best in the league in scoring defense (10.2 points per game).

"We come out here and try to perfect our craft every single day and every practice," tight end Sean McGrath said. "We just want to be as prepared as we can to face an opponent the next week."

Injuries are no stranger to the host Titans, who suffered a significant one last week in the midst of a 38-13 throttling of the New York Jets.

Quarterback Jake Locker, off to the best start of his three-year career, suffered a sprained hip in the second half of the victory and will be unavailable for at least a "few weeks," according to Tennessee coach Mike Munchak.

Through four games, Locker has completed 69-of-111 passes (62.2 percent), thrown six touchdowns and not been picked off while compiling a 99.0 passer rating.

He was replaced last week by ex-Buffalo Bills starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, who went 3-for-8 for 108 yards and threw a TD pass against the Jets. Fitzpatrick gets the start against the Chiefs, the 68th of his career after three with St. Louis, 12 with Cincinnati and 52 with the Bills.

"I was brought here for a reason," he said, "and the reason I was brought here was to help Jake out and be ready for a situation like this if it came up."

Potentially back from injury could be wide receiver Kenny Britt, who sat out last week with a rib malady and is probable this time around. Britt had four catches and a touchdown when he last met Kansas City.

Should Fitzpatrick and his teammates emerge from the game error-free, they'd become the first team since 1967 to go five games from the beginning of the season without a turnover. The Titans and Chiefs share the NFL lead with a plus-9 turnover margin.

"It's discipline," Munchak said. "It's important to them. We work on it every day."

Tennessee is 13th in the league in scoring offense (24.5 PPG) and seventh in scoring defense (17.2 PPG).


Though they've won all four of their games and are the league's best team at keeping points off the board, the Chiefs have been far from impenetrable when it comes to the run.

Kansas City is just 24th in a 32-team league when it comes to total rush yards allowed (470) and just one slot ahead of the bottom when it comes to average yards per carry (5.4). Those starts have to perk up the ears of Titans running back Chris Johnson, who has yet to really assert himself through four games while averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and 69 yards per game.

On the other side, Bowe is big, physical and capable of taking over a game when he gets open consistently. Similar to Tennessee's Johnson, his statistics so far -- 13 catches, 148 yards, two TDs -- belie the impact he can have on a game. That said, his matchup with Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner is a difficult one because only eight-of-23 passes in Verner's direction this season have been completed.


Going into the regular season, this probably wasn't a game anyone -- outside of the head coaches -- had circled for any particular reason. But with a combined seven wins in eight outings, it's suddenly become one of the league's marquee events.

The Chiefs have been successful thus far thanks to Reid-like efficiency on offense and inspired play on defense. The Titans at home certainly represent a threat to the unbeaten run, but the loss of Locker is enough to tip the scales to K.C. at 5-0.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Chiefs 21, Titans 17