Archive for Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Chiefs could go worst to first

If Kansas City wins final three games, it could win close AFC West race

December 11, 2002

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— In a lifetime of coaching, Dick Vermeil has never seen so many divisional rivals bunched so closely together so close to the end of the season.

If his Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) win their last three - against AFC West foes - they could elbow their way through the crowd and perhaps win the division.

As it stands now, they're tied with Denver for third in the four-team division.

"I don't remember ever being involved in this kind of scenario. It's probably very, very good for football," Vermeil said Tuesday. "It's not going to be real good for some coaches that don't make it, because the only smart guys will be the guys who do make it. If you don't win, you didn't get the job done."

The Chiefs' three-game ride through the AFC West begins this week at Denver, a team they lost to in overtime in Kansas City in October.

Then they're home against San Diego in Marty Schottenheimer's first regular-season game at Arrowhead Stadium since his highly successful 10-year stint as the Chiefs' coach ended after the 1998 season.

Then it's on to Oakland, a team the Chiefs beat in Kansas City, for the regular-season finale.

As the Chiefs gear up for those critical games, running back Priest Holmes is also taking aim at a pair of prestigious NFL records.

He needs three touchdowns to eclipse Marshall Faulk's single-season record of 26.

With 21 rushing touchdowns, he needs five to break Emmitt Smith's NFL record.

"How can you ask a guy to do any more than he's doing? You can imagine what he could have done had we left him in in the fourth quarter of the last two games," Vermeil said.

If Holmes does get the record, it won't be as a result of the Chiefs altering their game plan to feature him.

He has been their go-to player for more than a year now.

"If Priest Holmes is not successful, we're not successful. So, it's a high priority," Vermeil said. "It's the guy that we rely on, and our style of offense has moved to what he does best and what our offensive line does so well."

Kansas City's potent offense, which includes one of the league's finest offensive lines as well as three-time Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, is not the worry as the Chiefs head into this decisive three-game stretch.

The defense is.

Although still ranked last in the 32-team league, defensive coordinator Greg Robinson's unit has played much better of late, giving up just 10 points in blowout wins over injury-plagued Arizona and St. Louis the past two weeks.

"If we can play defense over the next three games both at home and on the road like we have played in the last four home games, we'll be very competitive," Vermeil said.

"But first things first," he added "The Denver Broncos are desperate. It's really easy when you evaluate Denver like I do, first on tape and then you evaluate the numbers to see what their No. 1 problem has been. They've been minus in turnovers seven times this year and only won four of them."

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