Archive for Saturday, December 13, 2003

Chiefs’ run defense could get a breather

Kansas City to play host to Lions, whose rushing game ranks last in league

December 13, 2003


— So in a game between a team that can't run and a team that can't stop people from running, who's favored?

In this case, say the odds-makers, the Kansas City Chiefs. Quite heftily.

With an 11-2 record, home-field advantage and an offense that ranks among the best, the run-vulnerable Chiefs are 14-point favorites over run-poor Detroit (4-9) Sunday.

It would be the team-record 12th straight home victory for the Chiefs and consecutive road loss No. 23 for Detroit, tying the NFL record.

It might also be a get-well game for Kansas City, which started 9-0 and raised hopes for an unbeaten season but has now begun to flag.

Dick Vermeil's troops are only 2-2 in their last four games and were spanked and sent home by the Denver Broncos last week, 45-27.

It was 45-21 with about 4 seconds left before the Chiefs scored a meaningless touchdown. Clinton Portis continued his mastery of the Chiefs with a 218-yard rushing performance, scoring five TDs along the way.

It all added up to a shockingly lopsided loss for a team that is supposed to be contending for the Super Bowl. How will the Chiefs respond?

"As a coach, you just look for a solid performance following that sort of a game," Detroit coach Steve Mariucci said. "Sometimes you can't tell in practice, sometimes you can. I know Dick Vermeil will have that team as ready as it can be."

In the meantime, the Lions will be hoping to see their anemic rush offense show a little life. The Chiefs, after facing such stalwarts as Portis, Ahman Green, Rudi Johnson and Jamal Lewis, show an average yield of 146.2 yards on the ground. That's No. 30 among the 32 NFL teams.

In yards-per-rush, the Chiefs are 32nd at almost 5.2.

On the other side of the stat sheet, the Lions are rushing for only 79.7 yards per game. That, too, is 32nd.

"I'm sure (the Lions) will be looking to get their running game cranked up," said Chiefs defensive end Vonnie Holliday. "Wouldn't you?"

Vermeil knows his run defense is not performing even close to a level associated with Super Bowl contenders. So what can he do?

"Hopefully there are little things within game plans and schemes we can do to help," Vermeil said. "But we're off where we ought to be. I know that. It doesn't match the level that playoff teams normally play successfully with. We'll line up the same guys and try to help them play better.

"And don't play Portis again. That will help."

The Lions have been trying to run the ball more often, said quarterback Joey Harrington. But they keep falling behind and having to pass.

"We've been put in tough situations sometimes. I think we lead the league in least amount of rush attempts," Harrington said.

"But we've been in situations where we've had to throw the ball a lot. Would we like to run more? Absolutely. Will we go after that? Maybe."

According to the statistics, there are two things the Lions do extremely well. They have given up the fewest sacks in the league. And they don't lose many fumbles.

Nevertheless, Mariucci does not believe this is a match "made in heaven" for either team.

"It's a match made in Arrowhead," he said.

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