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Archive for Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Blowouts bolster Kansas City’s confidence

Resurgent Chiefs have scored 98 points last two weeks in victories against Arizona, St. Louis

December 10, 2002

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— Just call them the Kansas City 49ers - and not because little cable cars have begun running back and forth between barbecue joints.

In back-to-back home games against Arizona and St. Louis - admittedly two of the most beat-up teams in the NFL - the surging Chiefs have put up 49 points.

Their 49-0 rout of Arizona was the most lopsided loss in the history of the franchise.

On Sunday, scoring seven touchdowns for the second week in a row, they handed the reeling St. Louis Rams a 49-10 hiding. The third-worst loss in the history of that franchise eliminated the defending NFC champs from playoff contention. And it filled the Chiefs with a confidence they've not experienced since the mid-90s when Marty Schottenheimer was taking them to the playoffs year after year.

"I'd say that's pretty consistent," said cornerback Eric Warfield, who is probably enjoying this resurgence of the Chiefs and their much-maligned defense as much as anyone. "This shows what we're capable of doing.

"Early on, we just weren't making the plays we're making now. For what reasons, I don't know. I'm just glad it's happening."

At 7-6, the Chiefs are above .500 for the first time since Dwayne Rudd's helmet-toss rescued them from certain defeat at Cleveland in the season opener. They're tied with Denver for fourth place in the AFC West.

They are in control of their own destiny. Their last three regular-season games, beginning this week in Denver, are all against division opponents.

Win all three, and a team that was all but given up for dead when it surrendered more than 500 yards of total offense in a 39-32 loss Nov. 24 at Seattle will break a four-year playoff drought.

"For two weeks in a row, every phase of the game has played well - offense, defense and special teams," said guard Brian Waters. "We hadn't put together one game like that all year and now we have two in a row."

Bearing in mind both games were at home against demoralized, injury-ravaged opponents, coach Dick Vermeil does not deny that a bolt of renewed confidence has energized his team.

"When you play a team that's banged up and is down a little bit, you should dominate," Vermeil said Monday. "It will be different Sunday in Denver. They're still in the playoff race. They've lost three in a row and they're not a team that's used to losing three in a row."

The Chiefs lost at home to Denver in overtime 37-34 on Oct. 20. But the next week, their defense, ranked dead last in the league, began playing much better in a 20-10 victory against Oakland.

Since then, their only defensive clunker has been the loss at Seattle, and everything else has come sharply into focus as well. Priest Holmes is leading the NFL in rushing and total yards, and he is on pace to break the NFL record for touchdowns in a season. Dante Hall has returned two punts and a kickoff for touchdowns the past two weeks.

Duane Clemons' 42-yard return of a fumble Sunday finally gave the revitalized defense a touchdown.

Confidence has never been higher.

"It adds a lot to the enthusiasm when everybody comes back to work, everybody in the organization," Vermeil said. "It adds to the enthusiasm and the camaraderie and the chemistry-building process."

He looked at his watch. It was almost 3:30 p.m.

"But from a coach's standpoint, it usually lasts until about 4 o'clock Monday. And all of a sudden you start looking at those other game tapes and all your concerns are regenerated. 'I hope we can block this guy. I hope we can hold up against this guy.'

"By Tuesday night, we've got all the concerns we had the Tuesday night before.

"What you have to be careful of is that (the enthusiasm) doesn't distort the reality of where you are and the reality of how the game is played every Sunday."

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