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Archive for Sunday, September 19, 2004

Chiefs expect challenge in today’s home opener

September 19, 2004

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— Playing left guard in the NFL has taught Brian Waters that most of the brutes on the other side of the line fall into one of two categories.

"You hope a big guy is just a big guy," Waters, Kansas City's 318-pounder, said. "You hope a quick guy is just a quick guy."

Then, every once in a while, along comes a Kris Jenkins. Carolina's 335-pound Pro Bowl defensive tackle belongs to a more elite group -- one that's especially troublesome.

"He can also be quick," Waters said. "He's not one-dimensional."

Jenkins and the defending NFC champion Panthers, coming off a 24-14 Monday night loss to Green Bay, will visit the Chiefs, who have won 13 straight at home, today. It will be the home opener for Kansas City.

The Chiefs are fresh off a disappointing 34-24 setback in Denver that brought their supposedly new and improved defense into question.

Led by Quentin Griffin, the Broncos rushed for more than 200 yards against a defense that spent the offseason undergoing a total revision under new defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham.

A porous run defense could be a problem this week as well. Stephen Davis, who set Carolina records last year with 1,444 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, is back.

Chiefs coaches spent this week wondering why the Panthers seemed to abandon their running game against the Packers. Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil pointed out that after averaging 36 rushes while going 11-5 in the 2003 regular season, the Panthers ran only 13 times against Green Bay.

"Now, I don't know if that's a philosophical change or ... it was just that they didn't feel they could run the ball against Green Bay," Vermeil said.

"I kind of look for them to move back into that profile this week, especially with the problems we have in stopping the run," he said. "Denver getting 200 yards, I think, will inspire them to move in that direction."

The Panthers also will need to compensate for the loss of wide receiver Steve Smith, who is lost indefinitely with a broken leg.

"Denver did some good things running the ball on them," Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "Quentin Griffin did some things, I don't want to say on his own, but he made some great individual efforts. Hopefully, that is a good sign for us."

Of course, the Panthers will be facing a powerful running game themselves. Priest Holmes romped for 151 yards and three touchdowns and looks even quicker than last year when he scored an NFL-record 27 touchdowns -- all on the ground.

Coach John Fox does not doubt that the Chiefs' brain trust took note of the fact Ahman Green rushed for more than 100 yards.

"They have got a formidable group," Carolina coach John Fox said. "Their O-line is excellent. They have got a great running back in Priest Holmes. It will be much the same kind of test as we experienced last week against two of the better offensive line groups and runners in the league."

Holmes, who is 157 yards away from breaking Kansas City's career rushing record, presents a different kind of problem, said Carolina defensive tackle Brenston Buckner.

"Ahman Green is more of a power back. Priest Holmes is more of a hit-you-down-low, outside, bouncing outside, make you miss, go to the house," Buckner said.

The Chiefs have one of the league's best home-field advantages. They've won 13 straight regular-season games in Arrowhead Stadium, which is always packed with about 80,000 red-clad fans.

"It's the defending NFC champs and the defending AFC West champs," Chiefs' defensive end Eric Hicks said. "One of them is going to be 0-2. Let's hope it's not us."

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