Chiefs free safety Ron Parker improvised as if he was playing on a sandlot.
He watched from the secondary as St. Louis quarterback Austin Davis circled and scrambled and re-traced his steps in the Rams backfield, desperate to find an open receiver in the end zone.
Parker had seen enough. He came after Davis himself.
“I wasn’t even coming on a blitz,” Parker said. “I was sitting back in coverage and kind of saw him standing out there like he had nobody to throw to. I was like, ‘Well, let me go get it.’ So I just played football and went and got it.”
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Parker sacked Davis for a 14-yard loss, one of a season-high seven sacks by the Chiefs in their 34-7 victory on Sunday over St. Louis at Arrowhead Stadium.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston had three sacks — raising his season total to an NFL-leading 10 in a contract year — but no sack was as important as Parker’s on third and goal with the score tied at 7-7 midway through the second quarter.
The Rams originally had the ball at the Kansas City 8 after Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles botched a handoff, but the defense held the Rams to a pair of 1-yard running plays, forcing Davis to go to the air.
Davis, who began the season as a third-teamer and was out of football last year volunteering as a high school assistant before injuries necessitated his re-signing, looked for tight end Lance Kendricks, who had caught a first-quarter touchdown pass, and then for Chris Givens at the back of the end zone.
“Throw the ball … just throw it away,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher. “He should have just thrown it out of the back of the end zone.”
Once Parker sacked Davis, the Rams were forced to go for a field goal, and normally reliable Greg Zuerlein, who was battling the flu, missed a 38-yarder.
That changed everything.
“That gave us all the momentum, and we just never looked back,” said Parker, who was making his fifth start in place of injured Eric Berry.
The Chiefs took over at the 38 and went on to take a 10-7 lead on Cairo Santos’ 53-yard field goal. And once Knile Davis returned the second half kickoff 99 yards for a 17-7 lead, the Chiefs, 4-3, were in total control of the Governor’s Cup game.
“That was the turning point in the game,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said of the goal-line stand. “To give up a turnover on our own end and to come back … and we probably came back with even better field position with the same score is a rarity. To have a defense play like that is special. Those guys really dominated and set the tone.”
Actually, the Chiefs defense started the game slowly. The Rams, 2-5, took the opening kickoff and zipped to a 7-0 lead as Davis connected with Kenny Britt for a 43-yard completion, and he finished the drive with a 1-yard flip to Kendricks.
“That first possession … it was a wake-up call for us,” Parker said. “We needed to wake up and get things going.”
Parker stymied the Rams’ next drive by intercepting Davis’ deep pass into double coverage intended for Britt.
“I was sitting there deep and trying to hide a bit,” Parker said. “I’ve seen on film this week, the receiver is going to push back out. The quarterback has a real strong arm, so there’s a chance he would overthrow it, so I got deep and played it in the air. He saw the corner, but he didn’t see me.”
Davis, making his sixth career start, spent most of the second half scrambling for his life.
The combination of his inexperience, an offensive line that saw three starters leave the game with injuries, and the relentless pass rush of Houston, Allen Bailey (1 1/2 sacks) and Vance Walker, Dee Ford and Jaye Howard, all with a half-sack, crippled the Rams offense, which managed just 135 yards after its opening drive.
Not only was Davis sacked seven times, but he was hit or hurried on at least seven other of his 25 passing attempts.
Houston was nearly unblockable with his three sacks and four quarterback hurries.
“Today was more on our defensive backs and linebackers,” Houston said. “They did a great job of (pass) coverage. The quarterback had to hold the ball. Anytime you have them doing that, it’s easy to put pressure on the quarterback.”
Houston’s reaching the 10-sack mark at the halfway mark of the season puts him on pace to tie Derrick Thomas’ franchise-record 20.
“I dream to have a big season every year, that’s my goal, that’s my plan,” said Houston, a two-time Pro Bowler, whose 36 1/2 sacks since Dec. 1, 2011 rank second in the NFL to the Texans’ J.J. Watt’s 39. “I’m going to continue to chip away and keep going.”
Certainly a 20-sack season would give him considerable bargaining leverage in his bid to sign a contract in the neighborhood of the six-year, $100 million package Watt signed in September.
“You can’t let it be a distraction,” Houston said of his contract. “I watch the other guys and talk to the coaches, and they tell me not to let it distract you. Your time is coming. I have to be patient.
“If you just focus on the game of football, it’s very easy. I don’t worry about it. “