ST. LOUIS (AP) – Larry Johnson backed up pregame braggadocio about dealing out the hits instead of taking them.

Johnson became the second straight running back to punish the St. Louis Rams’ defense in a 31-17 victory Sunday. Just as many big plays by a defense that forced three early turnovers against a team that emphasizes ball security helped the Chiefs build a 17-point cushion.

Jared Allen stripped Marc Bulger on a sack and recovered Steven Jackson’s fumble for the Chiefs, who have won three in a row for the first time under new coach Herman Edwards.

Two touchdown catches by Tony Gonzalez, who broke Otis Taylor’s franchise career mark, helped Kansas City (5-3) raise its record to an NFL-best 21-5 in interconference play since 1995. Damon Huard was mistake-free again, going 10-for-15 for 148 yards and three touchdowns.

Jackson had 219 yards in all for the Rams (4-4), who have lost three in a row to negate a fast start under new coach Scott Linehan. Jackson had 86 yards on 19 carries, with a 1-yard touchdown, and caught a career-best 13 passes for 133 yards, but also had one of the Rams’ three lost fumbles.

Johnson had 172 yards on 27 carries, including a 1-yard score for his fifth touchdown in two weeks, a 45-yarder when the Chiefs were backed up in the second quarter, and a 16-yarder that set up a field goal. He secured his fifth 100-yard game of the year and the 18th of his career before halftime against a beleaguered Rams defense that LaDainian Tomlinson gouged for 183 yards last week.

The Chiefs lost left guard Brian Waters, coming off an All-Pro season, in the first quarter with a leg injury. Johnson, who said “I don’t get hit, I give hits” on a conference call days after getting 155 yards against the Seahawks, wasn’t slowed down much.

The Rams entered the game among the NFL leaders in turnover margin at plus-10. They’re minus-4 the last two games after the three costly fumbles helped the Chiefs take a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Dane Looker, in for his sure hands with the Chiefs punting from the St. Louis 45, fumbled a fair catch in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Allen ran down Bulger on a rollout and stripped him, and then stripped Jackson on a 3-yard gain up the middle.

The Chiefs scored in six plays from the St. Louis 14 on the first turnover, capped by Johnson’s 1-yard run. Working from the St. Louis 46, they needed two plays and 50 seconds on the second to make it 14-0, with Samie Parker catching a 43-yard pass and then a wide-open Gonzalez snaring a 3-yarder.

Four plays after Jackson coughed up the ball at the St. Louis 33, Lawrence Tynes’ 42-yard field goal made it 17-0 with 10:22 to go in the first half.

The rest of the way it was a game of catch-up for the Rams. They closed to 24-17 on Kevin Curtis’ 2-yard catch late in the third quarter before the Chiefs answered with Huard’s 11-yard pass to Kris Wilson with 6:20 to go.

Gonzalez has 59 career TDs receiving, two more than Taylor for the franchise record. He needs three more to catch Shannon Sharpe, who holds the NFL record for a tight end.

Bulger’s fourth straight 300-yard passing game was wasted for St. Louis. He was 31-for-42 for 354 yards with no interceptions.

AP-ES-11-05-06 1612EST


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