Seattle Priest Holmes is finding his stride again, just in time to face the NFL's worst rushing defense.
Holmes, last season's NFL rushing leader, could run wild today when the Kansas City Chiefs (5-5) visit the Seattle Seahawks (3-7), who have spent a month ranked dead last in the league.
The Seahawks are allowing 170.1 yards rushing a game.
"They're a zone team and it's going to be hard to find lanes," said Holmes, averaging 101.2 yards a game and 4.4 per carry. "At the same time, with the offensive linemen I have, I believe we'll get a handle on that."
Unless the Seahawks prove otherwise, it's hard to argue. Holmes ran for 104 yards in last weekend's 17-16 win against Buffalo, becoming the first Kansas City running back to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. The milestone came in the 10th game, the earliest a Chiefs back reached it.
All this, too, after Holmes won last year's NFL rushing title with 1,555 yards. Not bad for a 5-foot-8 back who went undrafted in 1997.
"The road I had to take has allowed me to work on my patience," Holmes said.
You could say the same thing about Seattle coach Mike Holmgren. Injuries have forced the Seahawks to move young special teams players into the starting lineup, especially at linebacker. Tim Terry, a starter in last weekend's 31-9 loss to Denver, sees a big test coming against Holmes.
"We've got to get upfield and play aggressive on their line to stop the cutbacks," Terry said. "He gets a lot of yards with draws. He's a power runner and a speed guy, so our guys have to make sure we're in the proper places."
If only the Chiefs could keep up with their standout back. Kansas City's five losses have come by a combined 18 points.
"People catch up with what you're doing, and people have ball-controlled us and kept our offense off the field," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said.
|When: 3 p.m. today.Where: Seahawks Stadium, Seattle.Television: Channels 5, 13.Line: Chiefs by 3.Records: Chiefs 5-5; Seahawks 3-7.|
The Seahawks aren't much of a threat to control time of possession, if last week is a good indicator. The Broncos had the ball for three more minutes, outgaining Seattle 401-204 in total yards.
Granted, Denver has a strong defensive front, but Seattle generated only 51 yards rushing. Shaun Alexander had 18 yards on 11 carries.
"We didn't show up last week," guard Floyd Wedderburn said. "We'll just have to go out and correct the things that went wrong and make sure they don't happen again. We just need to keep working at it."
Holmgren, meanwhile, has reminded his defense not to concentrate solely on Holmes. Trent Green has completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,254 yards with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
"They don't just run the ball," Holmgren said. "They have a good passing attack. You can focus in on Priest Holmes, but you have to be careful. They're good enough to beat you passing the ball, too."
The Seahawks have been inconsistent offensively, failing to reach the end zone in their last two home games. Sandwiched between a 14-3 loss to Washington and last week's Denver game was a 27-6 win at Arizona.
"We're not that far from being good," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "We just have to turn the corner and be good."
Despite the struggles, Holmgren sees bright spots. He praised his young linebackers last week, and things might get easier at that position if Anthony Simmons can return from a high left ankle sprain, as expected.
"I have my fingers crossed," Holmgren said.
There's also a good chance receiver Darrell Jackson will return for the Seahawks, one month after his postgame seizure in a Dallas locker room. He's looking forward to doing something other than cheering from the sideline.
"We've been beating ourselves with mental mistakes," Jackson said. "We just have to go out, cut down on those mistakes and put some points on the board."