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Chiefs travel to Buffalo looking for defensive turnaround, first win

September 16, 2012

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— Defensive tackle Kyle Williams prefers looking at the bright side after the Buffalo Bills’ sky-high expectations were abruptly deflated by a season-opening dud.

There’s always the next game.

“We laid an egg, there’s nothing you can do about it,” Williams said, referring to how the Bills bumbled through a 48-28 loss at the New York Jets last weekend. “The encouraging thing is we just did about as bad as we can do at everything. So there’s only one way to go, and that’s up.”

Bring on the Kansas City Chiefs, who have concerns of their own in traveling to play Buffalo in the Bills’ home opener today.

Kansas City’s fresh start under coach Romeo Crennel quickly took a turn for the worse during a 40-24 loss to Atlanta that’s left Chiefs players in a testy mood.

“We’ve got some guys who want to get back out there and get that taste out of their mouths,” said safety Kendrick Lewis.

Though Lewis’ status is uncertain because of a shoulder injury, the Chiefs will at least get an immediate boost with the return of Tamba Hali. The pass-rushing Pro Bowl linebacker will make his season debut after serving an NFL-imposed one-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

“Being away, having to watch our team, wasn’t something I liked,” said Hali. “It wasn’t fun screaming at the TV.”

At least those on TV weren’t talking back, as the critics did in focusing on Buffalo’s high-priced newcomer, Mario Williams. The defensive end, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract in free agency, is already being panned after he failed to make a dent against the Jets.

“I’d probably be angry every day if I actually paid attention to what everybody said,” Williams said.

That doesn’t mean he’s not motivated going into this weekend.

“By any means necessary,” Williams said. “It’s going to change.”

It might be only Week 2, yet there is already a sense of urgency brewing among two non-division rivals meeting for the fifth consecutive season.

The Bills have won three of the past four meetings against the Chiefs, including last year when they opened the season with a 41-7 rout at Kansas City. It was a loss that began to expose the Chiefs’ deficiencies and added to what ended up as a growing list of injured players. Tight end Tony Moeaki, safety Eric Berry, running back Jamaal Charles and quarterback Matt Cassel all got hurt in 2011.

Berry’s season came to a quick end in the first quarter against Buffalo when he tore a ligament in his left knee after being blocked by receiver Stevie Johnson. Berry has accused Johnson of intending to injure him by targeting his knee.

Johnson has denied that allegation, and isn’t sure what to expect when the two players meet today.

“However he feels is however he feels,” Johnson said. “Everything that’s been said and everything that happened, it happened. It’s over with.”

Johnson and the Bills have many more concerns to contend with after what happened against the Jets. Four turnovers, including three interceptions of Ryan Fitzpatrick, led directly to New York scoring 24 points. Worse still, the Bills lost receiver David Nelson to a season-ending knee injury, while workhorse running back Fred Jackson will miss a month with a sprained right knee.

Nelson’s injury depletes an already thinly experienced group of receivers. At running back, C.J. Spiller has shown he’s capable of filling in for Jackson, and did so against the Jets with a career-best 169 yards rushing.

Coach Chan Gailey insists the Bills are good enough to overcome the injuries, and should be sharp enough to correct their mistakes.

“I keep trying to keep telling everybody that I believe we’re going to be a good football team,” Gailey said. “But time’s the only thing that’ll tell on that, and winning’s the only healer.”

In Kansas City, Crennel has concerns about a patchwork defense that faltered against Atlanta.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had 299 yards passing and three touchdowns, while scoring another on the ground. He did it against a Chiefs defense missing four regulars, including Hali.

“We couldn’t stop anybody on defense, and that’s a problem,” Crennel said. “We have to build on the positives and eliminate the negative things, and we have a short period of time to do that.”

The Chiefs produced 493 yards on offense to have the edge in most every statistical category but the score. They were instead undone by three turnovers, including Cassel throwing two interceptions.

In Buffalo, Fitzpatrick’s season-ending struggles carried into this year. He’s now 1-9 in his past 10 starts, a stretch in which he’s thrown 13 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

“We’re disappointed,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have to put that behind us and try to learn from some mistakes and move on. But it is interesting that both (teams) had very disappointing games.”

On the bright side, at least one should come away a winner today.

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