GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Matt Leinart’s first NFL game as a starter Sunday had a great beginning, a so-so middle and a nearly fantastic finish.

The Kansas City Chiefs have Larry Johnson, though, and his big play made the difference.

Johnson rumbled 78 yards on a pass play from Damon Huard to set up Lawrence Tyne’s 19-yard field goal with 1:36 to play and the Chiefs rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter to beat the Arizona Cardinals 23-20.

Leinart could hardly have gotten off to a better start, completing his first six passes, two of them for touchdowns. On his second pass play, he lofted a 49-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin.

And with the clock winding down, Leinart drove the Cardinals into field-goal range. But Neil Rackers missed a 51-yard kick that would have tied the game with two seconds to play.

Johnson’s play had an ugly ending when Arizona’s Antrel Rolle grabbed the star running back’s facemask and twisted his head as he fell out of bounds. Johnson lay motionless for a moment before getting up and leaving on his own.

The personal foul penalty moved the ball to the Cardinals 4, but the Chiefs (2-2) couldn’t punch it in and settled for the go-ahead field goal.

Arizona (1-4) moved from its 10 to the Chiefs 33 on its final drive, the last 26 yards on a pass from Leinart to Troy Walter, to set up the game-tying field goal attempt. But Rackers, who had connected from 41 and 45 yards earlier, was wide left.

Johnson carried 16 times for 36 yards, his lowest total in 16 games.

Leinart, inserted as the starter in place of mistake-prone Kurt Warner, completed 22 of 35 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted once.

Huard, starting for the third game in a row in place of injured Trent Green, was 26-of-38 for 288 yards and two scores with no interceptions.

On the Chiefs’ first possession, Huard couldn’t get Johnson the ball on a handoff and Arizona’s Chike Okeafor recovered at the Kansas City 41. Leinart was 4-for-4 for 37 yards on the subsequent drive, capped by a five-yard toss to a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald on third-and-goal for the touchdown and it was 14-0 with 6:12 left in the first quarter.

Fitzgerald left the game with an injured right hamstring a short time later and did not return.

Leinart was sacked on consecutive plays, by Jared Allen and Ron Edwards, then Bernard Pollard blocked Scott Player’s punt out of bounds at the Arizona six. On third-and-goal at the nine, Huard tossed a short pass to Johnson, who broke Karlos Dansby’s tackle try and scored to cut the lead to 14-10 with 3:26 left in the half.

Johnson’s fumble was recovered by the Cardinals’ Eric Green at the Chiefs 32. Neil Rackers’ 41-yard field goal with 42 seconds left put Arizona up 17-10 at the half.

Down 20-10 after three quarters, the Chiefs went 66 yards in seven plays, Huard throwing 15 yards to Samie Parker to the touchdown to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 20-17 with 9:35 to play. Leinart’s lone big mistake followed. Ty Law picked off the rookie’s pass and Tynes’ 40-yard field goal tied it at 20 with 5:03 to go.

AP-ES-10-08-06 1946EDT


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