30 minutes before the game, and Chiefs' coach Dick Vermeil is scratching his head. He's looking at the Browns' injury report and can't make heads or tails of the thing. According to the latest report, Browns coach Butch Davis has listed the entire 53-man roster as "questionable" for the game.
The list of injuries and ailments is as long as it is creative. Tim Couch is listed as questionable with a strained elbow, bruised forearm, bruised elbow, scar tissue tear or something. Jamel White is written up with a hammy, as is Corey Fuller, Anthony Henry, and the rest of the defensive backfield. The sheet also shows Darren Hambrick with a strained brain stem, Gerard Warren with a stretched abdomen, and Courtney Brown with laryngitis. MLB Andra Davis and WR Andre Davis are both questionable with a case of mistaken identity. Most perplexing, William Green is listed as having "soreness somewhere you don't even want to ask about." Local area sportswriters have finally gotten so fed up with Butch's injury antics that they simply make stuff up.
But for a workaholic head coach who likes to prepare for every possible wrinkle, the injury report reads like a horror novel. Vermeil had planned for his defense to face Kelly Holcombe, but the career backup is questionable for the game and listed simply as "missing".
So when the teams take the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Vermiel is shocked to see every last Browns player suited up and looking in perfect health. Even pro-bowl linebacker Jamir Miller, who supposedly tore a tendon in the first preseason game, is seen running out of the tunnel. Vermeil takes one look at his game plan and drops it on the grass. He had hoped that a blitzing defense could unnerve Holcombe and create a few turnovers for KC's hot-and-cold offensive squad to capitalize on. Instead, he was about to watch Tim Couch shred a weak defensive unit.
It doesn't take long. The very first play from scrimmage, Couch drops back and rockets a spiral 50 yards downfield to a sprinting Andre Davis. Chiefs CB William Bartee is so far behind Davis he doesn't even try to chase the rookie wideout down.
Things don't go much better on offense for the Chiefs. KC's strength is supposed to be its offensive line. Unfortunately, seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Willie Roaf is on something of a bender. Fresh off a DUI arrest in New Orleans, the Chiefs' best lineman shows up to the game stinking drunk. With Marcus Spears manning the line, Trent Green's knee lasts exactly one play. A driving Gerard Warren blows up a handoff to Priest Holmes, collapsing both Green and Holmes in the backfield and forcing a turnover that gives the Browns the ball at the 50 yard line. Two plays later, Frisman Jackson, of all people, tosses a 45 yard scoring strike to Dennis Northcutt on a gadget play.
With Green out, reserve QB Todd Collins steps in. Remarkably, Collins' career QB rating is actually worse than the abysmal 71.1 number Green managed in 2001. And Vermeil knows it. He tries to run Priest Holmes left, Priest Holmes right, and Priest Holmes up the middle. But after four straight three-and-outs, it becomes very clear that Collins will have to throw the ball. And the former Michigan signal caller does just that, to spectacular effect. His first three passes--all aimed at tight end Tony Gonzalez—are intercepted and returned for touchdowns.
By the fourth quarter, the Chiefs defense is exhausted and the offense is running out of players. RB Priest Holmes is slumped over on the bench and seeing double, thanks to a bone-shivering Earl Holmes tackle that loosened three fillings and put a six inch crack in Priests' helmet. The KC linebacking corps is old as dirt, and it shows as Jamel White and William Green combine for more than 300 total yards of offense. Chiefs LBs Marvcus Patterson, Glenn Cardrez, and Lew Bush are spotted on the sidelines, wrestling over the oxygen bottle.
With the game out of hand and the Chiefs' season looking to be in ruins, the only remarkable thing is that Vermeil isn't crying. In fact, he's not on the sidelines at all. An assistant coach eventually finds Vermeil in the training room with Roaf, sharing a bottle of Popov vodka.
Oh, the final score?
And that's the way I see it. GMD