In most of their first-down plays the other day, the Kansas City Chiefs, a famous running team, threw passes instead.

And that's how they ran up that 54-34 score on the St. Louis Rams, who had won their first six games with the same plan: consistent first-down passing.

Earlier this year, as well as in 1999, the Super Bowl-champion Rams had alone played this new kind of football--a high-scoring pass-first game--which nobody else in the league seemed to understand.

Now there are two teams that both understand it and play it--provided the Chiefs keep at it.

In their next two starts, the 4-3 Chiefs will be at 2-6 Seattle Sunday and then at 6-1 Oakland, and, with either Elvis Grbac or Warren Moon at quarterback, they have the firepower to win both times.

They've always had the firepower.

Their missing link until now has been the will to fire on first down.

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Rams Played Their Game

Those were the same old Rams in Kansas City.

They played their game there.

They threw passes smartly enough to beat most teams--driving to five touchdowns on pass plays--while using two different passers, Kurt Warner, who was injured, and Trent Green, who came in to throw for three touchdowns.

But for two good reasons, that wasn't enough to beat Kansas City:

• The Chiefs became the first team to come at the shaky Ram defense with pass after pass--with, that is, passes on first down and second down and most other downs.

• When the Chiefs shot ahead in the first quarter, 20-0, and in the second quarter, 27-7, they resisted the temptation to sit on a big lead and run the ball.

That had been their strategy previously in every game of Coach Gunther Cunningham's career.

In this game, by contrast, nearly every time they took possession, the Chiefs immediately threw the ball.

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When and Why to Throw