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Archive for Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saints’ Brees: Chiefs can be a bit deceiving

November 16, 2008

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— No. 1 vs. No. 32 sounds like the biggest mismatch of the day.

The offense that's gobbled up the most yardage in the NFL this season will face off against the defense that's given up the most.

In this corner are the New Orleans Saints (4-5), with Drew Brees on pace to smash Dan Marino's NFL record of 5,084 yards passing.

In the other corner, on wobbly legs, stand the injury-wrecked Kansas City Chiefs (1-8). Their defense, which could have four starters out and maybe more, has been allowing 406.2 yards. The Saints have been averaging 416.2.

So what exactly is the Saints' team record for most points in a game? Fifty-one, against St. Louis in 1976. And the Chiefs record for most points given up? Fifty-one, to Seattle in 1983.

Might history be made? The K.C. defense, when it was a lot healthier than it is now, already gave up Tennessee's biggest lead overcome (21 points) and Tampa Bay's most yards rushing (352).

So why are the Saints favored by only 51â2 points? An 0-4 road record, for one thing.

For another, the Chiefs behind the emerging Tyler Thigpen at quarterback have not exactly been getting blown out the last three weeks. Losses to Tampa Bay, San Diego and the New York Jets were by a combined eight points. In every instance, the energetic young Chiefs lost a second-half lead.

"They very well could have won these last three games, and when you flip on the film they don't look like a 1-8 team," said Brees, who is averaging more than 325 yards through the air.

"We know we have our work cut out for us playing at Arrowhead. When I played for the Chargers, they were an AFC opponent and we'd go there once a year and it was always an extremely difficult place to play."

Late in the week, the Chiefs were expecting linebackers Derrick Johnson and Pat Thomas, defensive end Tamba Hali, and right guard Adrian Jones to be inactive.

Limited in practice and iffy at best were running back Jamaal Charles, cornerback Brandon Flowers and safety Jarrad Page.

But surprising everyone by the way he's rebounded from a shoulder injury that shelved him the week before was defensive lineman Turk McBride.

"It's like a family," he said. "Someone goes down, you have to help the other in the family."

Chiefs running back Larry Johnson, benched by the team for three games and suspended by the league for one, will no doubt have plenty of carries, especially if Charles is still hobbled by an ankle injury. But it's a different offense from the one Kansas City was running a month ago. Thigpen, thrown into action when the top two quarterbacks went out with season-ending injuries, has thrown 124 passes the past three starts without an interception, though one was called back because of a penalty.

So the Chiefs have reconfigured their offense to suit the former third-team quarterback, using more shotgun formations and other things Johnson is not accustomed to.

"We have another weapon on offense. That helps the run game," said Thigpen. "But the biggest thing, having Larry back that's just one more thing the defense has to prepare for. Larry really has had a great attitude at work this week. You can see the team is excited to have him back."

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