Archive for Monday, November 22, 2004

Chiefs have had success against NFL’s elite

November 22, 2004

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— The New England Patriots might have a better chance of winning their 24th game in 25 tries tonight if they were 1-8 instead of 8-1.

It's the good teams that seem to have trouble handling the up-and-down -- but mostly down -- Kansas City Chiefs.

So far in a bitterly disappointing season, Dick Vermeil's team is 3-2 against teams with winning records and a puzzling 0-4 against those south of .500.

"It's a great thing to be able to say at the end of the year, 'Hey, we beat all those teams that are in the playoffs,'" left guard Brian Waters said. "But it's not great when you're sitting at home and not in the playoffs yourself."

The Chiefs' greatest offensive outburst came in a two-week span when they piled up 101 points and more than 1,200 yards in victories over division leaders Indianapolis (6-3) and Atlanta (7-2).

But reverting back to their stumbling, fumbling ways the two following weeks, they lost back-to-back games at Tampa Bay (3-6) and New Orleans (4-5).

Their other win was a Monday night upset of Baltimore (6-3).

"The sad thing about it is most teams that go to the playoffs do a great job of beating the losing teams," Waters said. "Right now, that's where we're having problems, taking care of teams that don't have the greatest record in the world."

If it's a challenge the Chiefs enjoy, they should get all they want from the defending Super Bowl champions.

Winners of 23 of their last 24, the Pats also are coming off one of their best performances in two years, a 29-6 whipping of Buffalo in which the defense did not give up a touchdown, Corey Dillon rushed for 151 yards and Adam Vinatieri was 5-for-5 in field goal attempts.

Sounds like just the sort of team that brings out the best in the Chiefs, especially at home on a Monday night when they've got all this frustration bottled up, ready to erupt behind one of the league's most dangerous offenses.

They might also draw inspiration from New England quarterback Tom Brady, who beat them in overtime 41-38 in their last meeting in 2002 while throwing for a career-high 410 yards.

"Their offense is one of the best in the league," said Brady, who's thrown at least one TD pass in 12 straight games. "They have proven that year after year after year. It is going to be important for us to try to stay on the field. Anytime you play a really good offense, the best way to defend them is to keep them on the bench."

The Chiefs will be short-handed, with running back Priest Holmes sidelined because of a knee injury. Holmes, whose 27 touchdowns last year set an NFL record, leads the AFC in scoring despite missing last week's game.

In his place, Derrick Blaylock rushed for 186 yards in a 27-20 loss to New Orleans.

"I think there are a lot of elements of Blaylock's running style (that compare) to Holmes'," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "I'm not saying that anybody is Holmes. Holmes is Holmes. But, I think Blaylock has a similar style there."

The Patriots have not failed to notice Kansas City's peculiar habit of playing their best against the best teams.

"They have beat some very good teams, the Colts and Baltimore and Atlanta, who is another very good team. They destroyed Atlanta, " Brady said.

"Even the games they have lost, they have been ahead or tied in the fourth quarter. It is not like they are getting blown out in any of these games."

While going 13-3 last year and gaining top seed in the AFC playoffs, the Chiefs were 10-0 against losing teams. But this year, while often failing to score in the red zone, sustaining 73 penalties in nine games and slipping to minus-5 in giveaway-takeaway differential, the Chiefs have been unable to sustain success despite an offense that leads the NFL in rushing and in total yards.

This tendency to play up or down to the competition was something Vermeil addressed last week in team meetings.

"Last year," he said, "we were the only team in the National Football League that beat every losing team on their schedule."

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