Tampa, Fla. Derrick Brooks wants to make a lasting impression on Priest Holmes.
The heart and soul of Tampa Bay's stingy defense never has played against the heartbeat of Kansas City's explosive offense and is looking forward to an initial meeting when the Buccaneers (2-5) and Chiefs (3-4) get together today.
"His first chance to face me, I don't want to disappoint him," said Brooks, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
"Whatever he's heard about me, I want to change that opinion. If he heard I was good, I want that team to leave thinking I'm great. If they think I'm great, I want them to leave the field saying, 'He's the best.'"
Holmes set NFL records for touchdowns and touchdowns rushing with 27 last season and is on pace to break those marks again after getting into the end zone seven times to help the Chiefs score 101 points in victories over Atlanta and Indianapolis the past two weeks.
The All-Pro running back leads the NFL in rushing (833 yards) and has 14 TDs (13 rushing). Meanwhile, the surging Chiefs gained 1,130 yards against the Falcons and Colts -- fourth most in league history over a two-game span.
Brooks and the rest of a Bucs defense that has ranked among the NFL's best for much of the past decade is impressed, but not awed. Tampa Bay has a history of playing well against teams that appear unstoppable.
"We respect what they've done. But again, you know in the back of your mind that's not your defense, that's not your team, and leave it at that," Brooks said.
"To me, with that attitude, you're setting yourself up for success. The minute you buy into what they've done and you get wooed, you're setting yourself up to lose."
Since dropping three straight to begin the season, the Chiefs have rebounded to win three of four and begin resembling the team that won 13 games last year.
The Bucs feel they've turned their season around, too, winning two of three after opening 0-4.
"Teams look at the tape and know we're better than 2-5. If they don't think we're better than 2-5, that's a trap they're setting for themselves," Brooks said.
Holmes and Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil agree.
"I know with them being led by Derrick Brooks, he's going to have those guys ready to play," Holmes said. "It's been a rough ride for them so far. They're anxious to get a win, but we definitely don't want it to be against us."
Vermeil learned firsthand what Tampa Bay's defense is capable of doing against a high-powered offense in the 1999 NFC championship game. His St. Louis Rams trailed 6-5 before scoring a late touchdown to win, 11-6.
The coach said one of the keys to Kansas City's surge had been the consistency of the running game, which is producing a league-best 167 yards per game. The Bucs are ranked 21st against the run (117.6 yards), but Vermeil said that was mainly because teams had so much difficulty throwing the ball.
"When you look at what they've done and the number of 10-yard plays they've given up and all that, I don't anticipate it being a high-scoring game," Vermeil said. "At least I hope it's not because that means they're scoring, too."
Kansas City allowed 505 yards in last week's 45-35 victory over Indianapolis. However, Bucs coach Jon Gruden said the Chiefs were better defensively than they performed against the Peyton Manning-led Colts.
"You can't measure a team on one game against Indianapolis," Gruden said. "Let's give the Colts a little credit, too. They've ripped a lot of people ... but Kansas City won the game."
Indianapolis runs the same defensive scheme as Tampa Bay. The Bucs are quick to point out that the Colts don't have the same personnel.
"Their offensive system is phenomenal," defensive end Simeon Rice said of the Chiefs. "It's their fingerprint, their signature. But all that said, they've still got to come out and play ball, and we have to play ball. And I think the way we play ball, we're going to deny a lot of situations that they are accustomed to. A lot of teams come in here real hot on offense and aren't that hot on that given Sunday."