NASHVILLE - The Kansas City Chiefs kept their perfect record intact with a 26-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on Sunday.
The team is barely recognizable compared to the 2-14 Chiefs' team of a year ago. That is by design.
Throughout his illustrious coaching career, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid has found a way to uncover some of the league's hidden gems.
Reid's latest project: Marcus Cooper, an unheralded rookie out of Rutgers.
Leading 20-17 late in the fourth quarter, Cooper jumped a comeback intended for Nate Washington and wrestled the ball away from the Titans' veteran wide receiver for a game-changing interception. The Chiefs held on and improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2003.
Operating out of a bunch set Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick targeted Washington, a dependable veteran regarded for his ability to run crisp routes. It was a play Cooper studied this week in a defensive film session.
"We saw a bunch set, that's something they like to do," Cooper said. "I was just able to go and get a jump on it."
Cooper, who was released by the 49ers during final cuts in the preseason, forced two turnovers including a pivotal touchdown in the first quarter.
The Chiefs took the lead for good on a 1-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles with 6:27 left. Aided by a late-hit penalty on Titans linebacker Moise Fokou, Kansas City went 66 yards on 10 plays during the game-winning drive. Kansas City preserved the win with two interceptions and a pair of field goals by Ryan Succop in the final three minutes.
On a rainy afternoon in Nashville, the sloppy affair featured a combined five turnovers and 15 penalties between the teams. The Chiefs and Titans entered this week tied for a league-high plus-9 turnover margin.
After going four weeks without committing a turnover, it took the Titans less than five minutes to cough up the ball on Sunday. While setting a block for punt returner Darius Reynaud, a knuckling ball caromed off Titans wide receiver Damian Williams' foot, bounced toward the end zone and was gathered by Cooper, who rolled in for a 2-yard touchdown. Cooper alertly pounced on the ball before a member of the Titans' coverage team could retrieve it.
"I didn't even see the other guy," Cooper said. "I just saw the ball - it might have been tunnel vision."
The Chiefs led 13-0 halftime after safety Quintin Demps stopped Titans running back Jackie Battle on a fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard late in the second quarter.
"He's about 250 and he can run so he's not a fullback, he's a running back," Demps said. "I just played my role. He's strong so everyone had to rally toward him."
The Titans (3-2) got on the board early in the third quarter on a 49-yard touchdown from Fitzpatrick to Chris Johnson. Flushed from the pocket by Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali, Fitzpatrick flicked the ball to Johnson who juked Cooper, then cut to his left past Kansas City safety Kendrick Lewis for the score.
Johnson, though, was limited to 17 rushing yards on 10 carries.
"It was a team effort," Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe said.
With the Chiefs leading 13-10 late in the third quarter, Smith overshot Jamaal Charles on a shallow cross near midfield that was intercepted by Bernard Pollard. It led to a 9-yard touchdown run by Fitzpatrick - the Titans' only lead of the day.
Filling in for injured quarterback Jake Locker, Fitzgerald put forth one of the worst halves of his career in the opening stanza. Fitzpatrick opened 1 of 9 for four yards through a quarter and a half, as the Titans failed to convert a first down until the 8-minute mark of the second quarter.
The former Bills' quarterback finished 21 of 41 for 247 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions.
"I didn't play well early," Fitzpatrick said. "I was trying to feel the game out rather than going out and taking it."
NOTES: Donnie Avery, who has 16 receptions for 304 yards (19-yard average), suffered a shoulder injury on a long reception in the first half and was pulled in the third quarter. Avery finished with three catches for a team-high 91 yards. ... Succop had four field goals and is 10 of 12 this season. He hasn't missed an attempt inside 50 yards.