Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs -Rewind
1. Greg Wesley proved once again that he is quickly becoming one of the best safety's in the NFL. He had nine solo tackles and he punished every Pittsburgh receiver who came across the middle. In the third quarter both Plaxico Burress and Hinds Ward looked exhausted. They managed to each gain over 100 yards in the air but they weren't prepared for the punishment delivered by Wesley and company.
2. The star of the day on defense has to be Jerome Woods. He recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter and intercepted a tipped ball that yielded him his first NFL touchdown. The importance of Woods on this defense has not been lost the last two weeks. Woods missed last year with a broken leg and he struggled in training camp. But he's rebounded in a big way. Woods has a renewed vigor and passion for the game. He;s taking nothing for granted this year. Woods and Wesley are without a doubt the best safeties in the AFC West but they are vast becoming the best safety duo in the NFL.
3. Ryan Sims had so much fun recording his first NFL sack that he repeated the feat later in the game. Sims attitude and fire gives the Chiefs their most flamboyant defensive lineman since Neil Smith. Sims has been a project for head coach Dick Vermeil. But a heart-to-heart between the player and coach ironed out his weight issues and his attitude during the off-season workouts. Sims has plugged up the middle of the Kansas City defense and that has allowed the Chiefs to be the leagues best against the run.
4. Dante Hall has made us all forget about Tamarick Vanover. Before his off the field issues short changed his career, Vanover's electric returns had Chiefs fans in a frenzy and opposing teams bewildered. Hall has become the NFL's best return man. He's the spark that ignites the Chiefs offense. His 100-yard TD return on Sunday brought his teammates to life and allowed them to get back in the game. Hall can score at anytime when he touches the ball. Late in the game Pittsburgh started to punt the ball to the sidelines after Hall's last return put the Chiefs inside the ten yard line.
5. Priest Holmes just gets better and better. His three touchdown performance gives him five for the season. The Steelers to a man used their 3-4 defensive schemes to perfection shutting down Holmes early in the game. But Holmes sensing his team needed him; sacrificed his body by vaulting in the air and scoring his first touchdown. Holmes injured his ribs but after some tape and some intense mental fortitude, he came back and scored two more times. This week he needs a breather.
6. Jason Dunn continues to be impressive. With Tony Gonzalez drawing double team duty, Dunn slipped into a spot in the Steelers zone coverage and hauled in a short three-yard touchdown pass from Trent Green. It was huge for the Chiefs because Green had already thrown two interceptions. Kansas City is more focused this year in the Res Zone. They want to score touchdowns at a higher rate than last year. Dunn, already a great blocker can help the Chiefs on third and short yardage situations by catching one or two balls a game.
7. Trent Green continues to struggle against the Steelers. He threw two interceptions that led to 14 points. But he never wavered. The throw to Dunn was huge for his confidence. But in the second half when Holmes was being eaten up by the Steelers defense. Green threw a series of short passes to his receivers and backs that led to first downs. He's yet to establish any downfield consistency but when that happens; the Chiefs could be the most feared offense in the NFL.
8. Head coach Dick Vermeil noted in his weekly media session on Tuesday that Tony Gonzalez would be more involved in the offense this week against the Texans. But Gonzalez was the primary reason the Chiefs connected on Dunn's 3-yard touchdown. Gonzalez drew the double team and Green found Dunn wide open in the back of the end zone. Gonzalez did manage to get two catches which put him at 401st of his career.
9. Punter Jason Baker had one bad punt but he has solidified on of the teams weaker points heading into 2003. His hang time is generally good but his distance has been sensational. He punts like he's looking over his shoulder and that's caused him to be more focused and productive. Kickers and punters are the two most difficult jobs to keep and to get in the NFL. Plus Baker has done a tremendous job on kick-offs saving the leg of Morten Andersen.
10. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson needs a strong hand from Chiefs fans. He has taken more abuse than any other coach in recent Chiefs history. They've had some bad ones but Robinson has designed defenses for decades and he's won a Super Bowl with Denver. He never had any talent in Kansas City until this year and he's been hung out to dry. But but he's never wavered in what he's had to work with and never made one single excuse. He is the Chiefs MVP to date.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Texans- September 21, 2003
1. This will be the Chiefs first road test of the year and this will be the Texans 2003 home opener. Something has to give. The Chiefs need to establish dominance on the road this year and they have to take the Texans out of the game quickly. They've already proved they can play with the big boys as they beat the Dolphins in week one on the road. Last Sunday, the Saints marched up and down the field at will on their improved defense.
2. Priest Holmes should only play in the first half if that long. This game should be a glorified exhibition game that counts in the standings. Dick Vermeil mentioned that first round pick Larry Johnson might be activated for this game. Derrick Blaylock needs to get into a flow as a running back and this could be a good test for him. But if the Chiefs are blowing the Texans out by halftime, then Johnson should get some carries if he's activated.
3. Trent Green has to be more offensively aggressive. The Texans have two great corners in Marcus Coleman and Aaron Glenn but they should be able to exploit the Texans secondary when they put in their nickel package. Green should establish the passing game early and throw over the top. The Texans use the same defensive alignment as the Steelers. So the Chiefs won't see anything new with Houston's version of the 3-4 defense.
4. Former Chiefs wide receiver J.J. Moses will be facing his old teammates on Sunday. Moses returns punts and kick-offs for the Texans. Two years ago the Chiefs almost kept Moses over Hall. In fact, if not for Moses, Hall might not be the returned he is today. The Chiefs need to contain Moses because he can be explosive.
5. David Carr the Texans starting quarterback looked all-world against the Dolphins in week one but he looked like he had the sophomore blues last Sunday in New Orleans. Carr was the highest rated quarterback to come out of college since Drew Bledsoe and the Chiefs should expect the David Carr that played against Miami not New Orleans.
6. Texans wide receivers Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford are not household names but they can flat our run with the ball after the catch. The Chiefs need to offset their route running capabilities and play more bump and run. When Gaffney and Bradford stretch the field that opens up the middle for tight end Billy Miller who was the Texans leading receiver a year ago.
7. The Texans lost a key component to their defensive line as defensive tackle Seth Payne is out for the year after injuring his knee on Sunday. He was their anchor in the middle. To offset that loss, the Texans signed former Chiefs defensive tackle Steve Martin to be his replacement. The Texans have little depth along their defensive line so the Green should have all day to throw the ball.
8. Stacey Mack has been the Texans main man in their running game but the Chiefs need to be concerned with 2003 4th round draftee Domanick Davis from LSU. He's considered a project but he can be explosive. The Chiefs linebackers need to be aware of him when he's on the field. He's averaging nearly five yards per rushing attempt and can catch passes out of the backfield.
9. As a defense the Texans have only yielded 196 rushing yards. It's been their pass defense that has cost them. That unit has yielded 593 yards in their first two games. Opponents have also converted 13 of 30 third down attempts.
10. Chiefs know this is the place of Super Bowl XXXVIII. This is also the state that gave birth to the Kansas City Chiefs as they were known as the Dallas Texans in the early 60's. The Chiefs crowning goal for the 2003 season is to come back to Houston on the first day of February 2004 and play for the World Championship! But before that happens, the Chiefs need to take care of business on Sunday.
Around the AFC West
1. It appears to me that former Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer is overmatched as a head coach. He was schooled in week one by Dick Vermeil and Mike Shanahan made him look like a rookie head coach in the Broncos 37-13 waxing in San Diego on Sunday.
2. High priced Chargers free agent wide receiver David Boston did not play last weekend. He has told team trainers and coaches that he will not return to the starting lineup until his ailing foot is 100%. The Chargers have no idea when that will be. Whith Boston's struggles in week one against the Chiefs, San Diego is experiencing some buyers' remorse as they are miffed by Boston's refusal to play hurt. If they were to cut Boston, the Chargers would have to eat nearly $15 million on their 2003 and 2004 salary cap.
3.The Chargers young secondary was no match for the Broncos air assault led by Jake Plummer. The much maligned week one Denver quarterback threw three touchdowns before separating his shoulder in the second quarter. Kudos to head coach Mike Shanahan who mislead the TV network about Plummers injury. He told them he had a mild concussion. He didn't want the Chargers to take a crack at the shoulder in the event he had to return to the game. Expect the NFL to fine Shanahan. Regardless, it was brilliant strategy.
4. Running back Clinton Portis was also injured in the Chargers game but not before he ran for 129 yards. The San Diego defense looked lethargic and they have to be wondering about management's decision to cut Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison.
5. Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson had a good game nearly running for 100 yards but Drew Brees only managed 181 yards passing. What hurt him more than anything was the loss of wide receiver Reche Caldwell who fractured his wrist. He will be out up to eight weeks.
6.The Chargers loss puts them 0-2 on the season and in the division. They'd need to win all four of their remaining AFC West games just to have a remote chance at winning the divsion and getting into the playoffs.
7. The Raiders escaped with a 23-20 win in Oakland over the hapless and bumbling Cincinnati Bengals. They jumped out to a 10 point lead but allowed the Bengals to get back into it. The teams swapped field goals and touchdowns until the final seconds as Sebastian Janikowski kicked the game winner from 41-yards out.
8. Rich Gannon continues to be a mystery in 2003. He looked old and slow against the Titans in week one but he looked plain bad in the Raiders win on Sunday. He was 13 of 28 for 103 yards and no touchdowns. The 2002 NFL MVP continues to throw short passes and the Bengals sagged their defense until they sagged it to much on their last drive that set up the game winning kick. Gannon has to get the ball down field. The team really needs wide receiver Jerry Porter to get back from his injury.
9> Charlie Garner also looked pathetic carrying the ball against the Bengals. Rookie Justin Fargas from USC had flashes but the Raiders are not ready to push Garner out of the starting lineup just yet. They need him to catch passes out of the backfield since he's been their most consistent receiver.
10. Jerry Rice called out all his teammates after Sunday's victory. They would have lost if not for the interception return by cornerback Phillip Buchanan. We'll see if that does any good but the Raiders looked very old on Sunday. When a 40-year old wide receiver has to get the team motivated to play up to their abilities, the Raiders might find it difficult to defend their AFC Title in 2003.
Next Week in the AFC West
The Raiders travel to Denver next Monday Night to face the Broncos. The winner will have a leg up in the AFC West standings. Jake Plummer and Clinton Portis are listed as questionable for the game. The Raiders need a big performance from Rich Gannon if they want to make a statement in prime time.
The Chargers are home again to the Baltimore Ravens. They face NFL rushing record holder Jamal Lewis. He lit up the Cleveland Browns for 295 rushing yards on Sunday. The Chargers could not contain Portis and they'll have their hands full with Lewis on Sunday.