KANSAS CITY, MO., SEPT. 13 -- Paul Palmer, a long way from his home in Potomac, Md., and four years out of Churchill High School, was 95 yards from victory today when he fielded a kickoff with 3:19 to play.

He picked up a block, got past kicker Vince Abbott and outran the last defender to give the Kansas City Chiefs a 20-13 victory over the San Diego Chargers.

"Nine times out of 10, when you get behind the kicker, it's end zone, it's green grass," he said. "I'm good for 40 to 60 yards. After that, these legs of mine don't pick up any more speed. . . .

"I was nervous. I don't usually get nervous, but I was nervous before this game."

His coach, Frank Gansz, said that, when Palmer started running, "I felt like I was on a rocket ship to Mars." It was Gansz's first game as the team's coach and Palmer's first game in the NFL.

"I'm like anyone else," Palmer joked. "I want to be the center of attention. . . .

"Palmer, he ran a long way," Coach Al Saunders of the Chargers said. "We did not tackle him. The run was a back-breaker."

Abbott had just kicked a 33-yard field goal to tie the game.

Christian Okoye, the Chiefs' other new running back, ran 43 yards for a second-quarter touchdown and finished with 105 yards rushing. He is a Nigerian who attended Azusa Pacific (Calif.) of the NAIA.

His touchdown run was the longest scoring run from scrimmage by a Chiefs back since Herman Heard went 69 yards against San Diego in 1984. It was the first 100-yard day for a Chiefs back since Mike Pruitt got 102 in 1985 and only the second since the last game of the 1981 season. Okoye rushed 21 times.

The Chiefs drafted Palmer first and Okoye second after finishing no better than next to last in NFL rushing the last four seasons. San Diego 0 0 3 10 13 Kansas City 3 7 0 10 20

First Quarter

K -- FG Lowery 25, 13:37 Second Quarter

K -- Okoye 43 run (Lowery kick), 12:04 Third Quarter

S -- FG Abbott 32, 7:13 Fourth Quarter

K -- FG Lowery 29, 2:15

S -- Anderson 34 pass from Fouts (Abbott kick), 7:23

S -- FG Abbott 33, 11:23

K -- Palmer 95 kickoff return (Lowery kick), 11:41

A -- 56,940

Chargers Chiefs First downs 19 15 Rushes-yards 23-84 40-174 Passing yards 258 58 Return yards 13 35 Passing 21-40-3 6-15-1 Sacked-yards lost 2-12 4-21 Punts average 4-44 6-39 Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0 Penalties-yards 9-55 9-70 Time of possession 27:29 32:31


RUSHING -- San Diego: G. Anderson 12-43, Spencer 7-24, James 3-17, Redden 1-0. Kansas City: Okoye 21-105, Heard 10-42, Moriarty 4-15, Blackledge 2-6, Palmer 2-6, Clemons 1-0.

PASSING -- San Diego: Fouts 21-39-2, 270 yards. Smith 0-1-1-0. Kansas City: Blackledge 6-15-1-79.

RECEIVING -- San Diego: James 6-100, Anderson 6-68, Winslow 4-42, Houlihan 3-43, Spencer 2-17. Kansas City: Paige 2-29, Arnold 2-20, Marshall 1-19, Carson 1-11.

MISSED FIELD GOALS -- San Diego: Abbott 33.