BALTIMORE — Given a second chance by the blundering Baltimore Ravens, Dante Hall sprinted 97 yards into the NFL record book.
Hall’s kickoff return with 5:08 left broke a tie and kept the Kansas City Chiefs unbeaten with a 17-10 victory Sunday.
Hall became the first player in NFL history to return a kick for a touchdown in three straight games. He took a kickoff 100 yards against Pittsburgh two weeks ago and returned a punt 73 yards against Houston last week before completing the trifecta against Baltimore.
The 5-foot-8 speedster did little against the Ravens until his final foray upfield — after Baltimore’s Adalius Thomas was called offside on the preceding kickoff.
“We made an adjustment on the direction we were going to run,” Hall said.
Hall took the second kickoff from Wade Richey all the way, encountering few would-be tacklers during his record-setting jaunt.
“He finally gave us a ball to work with and we made him pay,” Hall said. “The blocking was unbelievable. I started right, cut left, and my eyes got so big when I saw that hole. I’m getting bubbleguts again just thinking about it.”
Ravens coach Brian Billick said: “We contained him very, very well, right up until the end. That’s the dangerous thing about a great player like that.”
Kansas City (4-0) came in averaging an NFL-best 37 points per game. The Ravens held running back Priest Holmes to 90 yards rushing on 22 attempts and the Chiefs’ offense produced only 10 points, but Kansas City received plenty of help.
The Chiefs intercepted three Kyle Boller passes, and Hall won the game with his electrifying return after Jamal Lewis, who finished with 115 yards rushing, tied it on a 1-yard run.
“This is a very disappointing loss,” Billick said. “Clearly we cannot make the mistakes that we made at critical times.”
Baltimore’s comeback faltered when Ed Reed fumbled a punt with 2:21 left. The Ravens (2-2) got the ball back, but Dexter
McCleon’s second interception, with 29 seconds to go, capped an excellent performance by the Chiefs’ surprisingly potent defense.
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“When they make such a big hype over two good running backs going at one another, special teams and defense usually wins the game,” Hall said.
Boller was 15-for-26 for 140 yards and was sacked three times.
“It’s hard, very frustrating,” Boller said. “There are a couple balls I’d like back. I’ll make sure I don’t try to force them in there next time; I’ve got to use this is a learning experience.”
The game was billed as a showdown between Holmes, who started his career in Baltimore, and Lewis, who ran for an NFL-record 295 yards two weeks earlier. Holmes finished with fewer total yards than Lewis (159-103), but he got a victory to savor.
So did Dick Vermeil, who now has 100 wins as an NFL coach.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Vermeil said. “We had to rely on our defense and special teams, and they did a great job.”
Held to five first downs in the first half, the Ravens opened the third quarter with a 67-yard drive that produced a field goal by Matt Stover and a 3-3 tie. The kick came after a 1-yard touchdown run by Lewis was nullified by a holding call.
Kansas City responded with a 71-yard march that blended the talent of Holmes and quarterback Trent Green with some well-timed trickery. After a reverse by receiver Johnnie Morton gained 36 yards, the Chiefs moved to the 1 before Green faked a handoff to Holmes and hit a wide-open Tony Gonzalez for a 10-3 lead.
The Ravens got into position to tie it early in the fourth quarter, moving from their 21 to the Kansas City 23 before McCleon picked off Boller in the end zone.
Neither Lewis, Holmes nor anyone else reached the end zone during a first half that ended with the Chiefs up 3-0.
The Ravens’ opening possession ended with Greg Wesley intercepting Boller’s long throw into double coverage at the Kansas City 7.
Then, after Thomas tipped a punt, the Ravens took over at the Chiefs’ 28. But on fourth-and-1 from the 8, Lewis fell down on a sweep and lost a yard.
Kansas City punted on each of its first four possessions before Morten Andersen kicked a 46-yard field goal to conclude a 10-play drive with 3:23 left in the second quarter.