KANSAS CITY, Mo., Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Dante Hall returned both a kickoff and punt for touchdowns Sunday to keep the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoff hunt with a 49-10 victory over the St. Louis Rams.
Hall became the 20th player in NFL history to return two kicks for touchdowns in the same game, bringing back a kickoff 88 yards in the first quarter and a punt 86 yards in the second period.
Earlier this season, Michael Lewis of New Orleans returned a kickoff and punt for touchdowns against Washington.
"I didn't expect him to return two here today," said Kansas City Coach Dick Vermeil.
"But they (return specialists) gain that confidence and they just can't wait to attack."
The long scores demoralized the Rams (5-8), who reached the Super Bowl last season but are reaching for answers this year. Although barely mathematically alive, they are virtually assured of missing the postseason for the first time since 1998.
"We've got to look at some different personnal and move some guys around and win a game with Arizona (next week)," said Rams Coach Mike Martz.
Vermeil was facing the Rams for the first time since guiding them to a Super Bowl title three years ago. He has put together another potent offense with the Chiefs (7-6) and unleashed it on his former team Sunday. The Chiefs scored 49 points for the second straight week.
"There's nothing vindictive or personal in regards to beating the St. Louis Rams," Vermeil said. "I don't feel any different about beating the Rams as I did about winning last week."
NFL rushing leader Priest Holmes fan for 132 yards and two touchdowns, lifting his season touchdown total to 24, two shy of Rams running back Marshall Faulk's 2000 record.
Former Ram Trent Green completed 10 of 15 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown and Duane Clemons returned a fumble 42 yards for a score for the Chiefs. It was the ninth turnover returned for a score against the Rams this season.
"Anytime you start a game down by 21 points, no matter who you are playing, it's tough," Martz said. "It demoralizes your defense. We've done a good job of demoralizing our defense."
If the Chiefs want to make the playoffs for the first time since the 1997 season, they will have to beat AFC West foes Denver, San Diego and Oakland in their last three games.
"We'll enjoy the win for 24 hours, but then prepare for a tough final three games," defensive end Eric Hicks said. "(It's) the best division in professional football. If we win three, we should be in the playoffs."
Martin was 24 of 35 for 218 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while absorbing six sacks. It was his fumble that Clemons brought back for a touchdown and he failed to direct a scoring drive in the second half as he fell to 0-2 as a starter.
"I think that they did a good job of pass protecting, really," Martin said. "I just did a bad job of holding it too long."
Hobbled by a sprained ankle, Faulk had 10 carries for just 13 yards for the Rams, who have lost three in a row. In their last two games against the Chiefs, they have surrendered 103 points.
"Obviously, Marshall Faulk is not Marshall. He's playing hurt," Martz said. "He wants to play, so we spot him in there a bit and go that way."
A 50-yard punt return by Terrence Wilkins set up a 36-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins less than three minutes into the game, but the Rams held the lead for 12 seconds. That's how long it took Hall to burst up the middle, veer right and break a handful of poor tackles for his first score.
Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Martin was hit by Chiefs sack leader Hicks and coughed up the ball. Clemons scooped it up and returned it for his first NFL touchdown and a 14-3 lead under five minutes into the contest.
"We had a great rush," Clemons said. "Eric Hicks was coming from the left side and he got a read on the quarterback and stripped it and the ball popped down right in front of me. I was able to pick it up in full stride and take it to the house."
Martin threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce with 1:43 left in the first quarter, but that was the extent of St. Louis' offense. In the second period, Holmes had a pair of short touchdown runs around Hall's second return.
Holmes had runs of eight, 16 and 17 yards before banging in from the two to complete a 66-yard drive. He has rushed for a touchdown in 11 straight games, two shy of John Riggins' 1982 NFL record.
The Chiefs forced a punt and this time Hall started left, then changed direction and took it back down the right sideline. Reserve linebacker Gary Stills flattened punter Mitch Berger to clear the path for Hall, whose score made it 28-10 with 6:58 left.
"I think about halfway through the game, the fans were expecting that to happen every time, and we were, too," said Hall, who had a team-record 90-yard punt return for a touchdown last week against Arizona. "It makes the blockers block even harder, which is good for me, and it's a total advantage in our kicking game."
"Those three returns, I think, hurt them a little bit emotionally and took some of the fight out of them," Vermeil said. "It gave us an edge."