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Chiefs, Vermeil seal Rams' fate

©Associated Press
December 9, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It ended with a big, loud thud for the Rams.

Their three-year postseason run, which included two Super Bowl appearances and one championship, came crashing to a halt Sunday in one of the most lopsided losses in the franchise history.

Dante Hall returned two kicks for touchdowns and Priest Holmes ran for 132 yards and two more TDs, leading the Chiefs and coach Dick Vermeil to a 49-10 victory over the injury-battered St. Louis.

"It's embarrassing," Rams cornerback Dexter McCleon said. "That's all you can say. There wasn't anything good that happened today."

The Rams' third-most lopsided loss, combined with San Francisco's 31-27 win over Dallas, eliminated the NFC's defending champions from playoff contention.

"This is something I'm not used to," cornerback Dre' Bly said. "So it's tough."

The coach who eliminated the Rams was Vermeil, who led St. Louis to the Super Bowl title after the 1999 season. Vermeil then retired, only to come back a year later to coach the Chiefs.

"There's nothing vindictive or personal in regards to beating the St. Louis Rams," he said.

Vermeil had to return a $2-million consultant contract the Rams gave him upon retiring. And the commissioner ordered the Chiefs to give the Rams a second- and third-round draft pick as compensation.

The Rams, after starting the season 0-5, went on a five-game winning streak behind backup quarterback Marc Bulger. But with Bulger and Kurt Warner injured, they've lost three straight.

Behind an offensive line that had one man starting in his normal position, third-stringer Jamie Martin was sacked six times, intercepted twice and lost a fumble that was returned 42 yards for a touchdown by defensive end Duane Clemons.

"We got beat in all three phases of the game," Bly said. "It's like being on a roller coaster. We get out of the gate 0-5, then we win five straight. Then we go on this streak. We've just got to find a way to keep going and stick with it these last three games."

Holmes' two TDs left him two shy of the NFL record of 26, which Marshall Faulk set in 2000.

Hall, who battled through training camp for a spot on the roster, is the second man this season to score on two kick returns in a game, and the first Kansas City player to do it.

"It feels great," said Hall, who had a team-record 90-yard touchdown return of a punt Dec. 1. "That's the thing we enjoy, seeing our hard work paying off."

On the Rams' first kickoff, Hall caught the ball at the 12 on the right side of the field, ran upfield a few yards and cut sharply left. Almost every Rams defender was on the right side, and Hall sped untouched 88 yards for the Chiefs' first kickoff return for a TD in more than five years.

Midway through the second quarter, Hall fielded a punt on his 14 and went left. Shaking off a tackler on the 21, he darted away from the pack and reversed his field, sidestepping a couple of players and speeding up the right side.

Said St. Louis coach Mike Martz: "You don't want to quote me on what I have to say about special teams. I have never been more (angry) in my life."

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