Giving up an average of 132 rushing yards a game -- understandable in some ways, considering the Chiefs have faced Baltimore's Jamal Lewis, Denver's Clinton Portis and Green Bay's Ahman Green in the past three weeks -- does not bode well for a Kansas City team that gave up 280 rushing yards in the rain, mud and gunk of the Oakland Coliseum last December.
"That doesn't fit the profile of a championship football team," Vermeil conceded. "Now, championship teams from time to time give up that kind of yardage during the year. But it's not indicative of a quality defensive football team."
Missed tackles and missed assignments -- particularly against Green Bay when second-year tackle Eddie Freeman and rookie Jimmy Wilkerson had to play for ailing starters -- have contributed to the unsightly defensive totals.
Weak-side linebacker Shawn Barber, in particular has missed several tackles, like the one Portis slipped to turn a medium-route pass into a 72-yard pitch-and-run.
"He still sometimes hits without using his arms, and he's not a 250-pounder," Vermeil said of Barber. "He's 233 and he's got to use those arms, especially against good backs that are building up steam."
At the same time, Vermeil cites a laundry list of other numbers that tell him the Chiefs are a significantly better overall defense than last year's 32nd-ranked unit.
"When you compare us to last year at this time," he said, "we have three more wins, 78 fewer points surrendered, 13 fewer points per game surrendered, seven fewer TD passes allowed, seven fewer rushing TDs allowed, 31 fewer first downs, 70 fewer rushing yards, 87 fewer passing yards allowed, three more sacks and five more takeaways.
"Are we good enough? Not yet. Can we be good enough? I think so."
Quarterback Trent Green was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after his 400-yard, 3-touchdown performance in rallying the Chiefs from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to a 40-34 overtime win at Green Bay.
Ryan Sims, on playing in the first Monday night game of his career: "This is what you play football for. When you grow up you dream of playing on Monday Night Football. Then you have to take advantage of the opportunity when you get it."
Kick returner Dante Hall wanted to be politically correct and acknowledge the greatness of 37-year-old Raider receiver Tim Brown as a returner is his Heisman Trophy days at Notre Dame and early in his career with the Raiders. But honesty eventually won out over correctness.
"I'm not gonna jive you -- in my (youth) it was all about the running backs like Barry Sanders," Hall said. "The only returner I watched was Deion (Sanders). (Brown) was a little before my time. He's WAAAY before my time. He's about to pass me twice!"
The Chiefs have won three of their last four Monday night games against the Raiders. They lost their last appearance in 2000 at New England when Elvis Grbac's last-ditch rally ended when he threw short of the end zone to Tony Gonzalez with the clock running out and the Chiefs unable to stop it.
BY THE NUMBERS: 31.8 -- the Chiefs' league-best scoring average. 17 -- Kansas City's league-best takeaway count. 31 -- Kansas City's average drive start after Dante Hall kickoff returns this year. 40 -- a team's drive start when a kickoff is sent out of bounds.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"Everyone gashed us last year, right? It was the end of the season, guys were down, we were out of the playoff picture, there was nothing to play for. You don't want to say that happens, but it does. But right now we've got a lot to play for." -- Second-year DT Ryan Sims on last year's season finale in which the Raiders ran for 280 yards in a 24-0 whitewash of Kansas City.
TE Tony Gonzalez needs just three catches to run his career total to 417 and pass WR Henry Marshall as the Chiefs career leading receiver. Only five tight ends in NFL history -- Ozzie Newsome (with 662 catches), Shannon Sharpe (635), Kellen Winslow (541), Jackie Smith (480) and Mike Ditka (427) have more catches than Gonzalez. All but Sharpe are in the Hall of Fame, and Sharpe will be someday.
WR Marc Boerigter, who has been something of a missing man in catching only three passes this year, was a late addition to the injury report Wednesday with a toe injury. Boerigter was a veritable touchdown machine last year with 8 TDs on his mere 20 receptions in his first NFL season.
WR Johnnie Morton has begun to find his place in the Kansas City offense. In the past three weeks, he's totaled 263 yards from scrimmage on only 14 touches over his past three games. Morton, who caught only 29 passes and scored 1 TD in his first disappointing season with the Chiefs, has 12 catches for 200 yards and two runs for 63 more in his last three outings during which he's scored twice. He had his first 100-yard day as a Chief against Denver.
RB Priest Holmes has eight rushing TDs this year. Only one other TEAM in the league (Green Bay) has more with 10.
FS Jerome Woods is the league's only defender with two touchdown returns this year. His 71-yard interception return against Green Bay helped cut the Packers 31-14 fourth-quarter lead to 31-28 in KC's eventual 40-34 overtime win.
LB Scott Fujita may get more blitz opportunities after the first two-sack day of his career against Green Bay last week. "He's the kind of tall, rangy athlete would come be good at it," coach Dick Vermeil said.
Monday Night's Game Plan:
This is a perfect opportunity to establish Priest Holmes and the running game against the league's worst rush defense, one giving up 165 rushing yards a game. A ball control offense would help take the Oakland crowd and rest a Kansas City defense that has been on the field way too much in the past two weeks.
Defensively, the Chiefs need to make sure the dink-and-dunk passes of Rich Gannon don't become long gainers. And though the Raiders haven't shown much of a rushing attack this year (89 yards a game), the Chiefs still have to be wary of Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley after getting gashed for 280 in Oakland last year and giving up 202, 176 and 183 ground yards in the last three games against Baltimore, Denver and Oakland.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Raiders WRs Jerry Rice and Tim Brown against Chiefs CBs Dexter McCleon and Eric Warfield. The age of Oakland's receivers is showing big time, but there are still opportunities to pitch-and-run against the KC corners.
Raiders punter Shane Lechler vs. Chiefs KR Dante Hall. Lechler can kick the air out of a ball, but if he outkicks his coverage, Hall gets the open field in which he's most dangerous.
Chiefs front four vs. Raiders pass protection. The Chiefs would like to pressure Rich Gannon with a four-man rush while keeping seven in coverage. They have a chance to do that against Oakland's patchwork offensive line.
The Chiefs should have both starting units intact. The only injury concerns involve reserves. DE R-Kal Truluck (doubtful, ankle) won't play while nursing an ankle sprain. Neither