--It's now 1 1/2 years later, but memories of the Chiefs' miraculous, fluky 40-39 victory in the season opener at Cleveland last year came rushing to the surface again this week as the two teams prepare to meet in Arrowhead.
Just to recap: Cleveland had taken a 39-37 lead with 29 seconds remaining in a see-saw game when the Chiefs faced one last play at their own 47 with :05 remaining. Cleveland linebacker Dwayne Rudd had Trent Green in his grasp and was in the act of throwing him to the ground when Green lateraled to tackle John Tait in desperation. As Rudd dashed his helmet to the turf in a premature celebratory move, Tait rumbled 28 yards to the Browns 25. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Rudd moved the ball to the 12, and Morten Andersen's field goal on an untimed down gave the Chiefs a gift 40-39 victory.
"Santa Claus came early," coach Dick Vermeil said this week in looking back. "He won't come that early this year. I think that's probably been on their mind for a long time."
The Chiefs know everyone in the league believed they stole one in Cleveland last year. They don't care.
"It's like coach Vermeil is always saying -- you play to the very last second," said fullback Tony Richardson. "We played maybe 20 seconds longer than they did that day, and we won the game. We're not going to apologize for that."
But the Chiefs also appreciate the extra motivation the Browns have in coming to Arrowhead.
"They've got a ton of motivation coming in here," said guard Brian Waters. "They'd love to come in here and knock us off at home. There's also what happened last year, and they'd like to get in the playoffs again."
--"The Late Show with David Letterman" showed tape of Dante Hall catching a football launched from a Jugs machine from the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York. What viewers didn't see, though, was several missed attempts as Hall battled TV lights, a night sky and street curbs on Broadway.
"I was afraid I'd pull a muscle or something," Hall said. "I tripped over a curb a couple times, then slipped in these knockoff alligator shoes! That was tough, and the people on the street acted like I should have caught every ball!"
--While in New York, Hall got to meet rapper Jay-Z, who claimed to be as big a fan of Hall as Hall is of him.
"I'm telling him, 'Man, I love what you do; you're my idol!' And he says, 'No, I like you guys,' and he starts naming everyone on the team.
"It was amazing to me that people know me like I watch them."
Add Canadian fans to that group. At the suggestion of some Canadian reporters he met after the Oakland win on Monday night, Hall took a short side-trip from New York to Toronto, where he thought he could spend a day unnoticed as he attended a Raptors game in the hope of meeting NBA star Vince Carter.
"I was surprised they were so up on the NFL," said Hall, who eventually succeeded in getting a wristband from Carter. "I thought I'd be incognito, but people everywhere I went knew who I was."
--As exciting as Hall's whirlwind off week was, he admitted to being envious of the invitation Gonzalez wrangled to a Playboy sponsored party in LA.
"I'd say the guy who had the most fun of all was the guy who went to the party with Hef," Hall said.
Gonzalez, who said he went to the Halloween party dressed as Zorro, didn't even bother to disagree.
--Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt hopes to be in Arrowhead Stadium this weekend for the ceremony in which Marcus Allen will accept his Super Bowl ring.
Hunt missed two straight Chiefs games after undergoing prostate surgery in Houston. His family estimates Hunt has missed only 15 games in 43 years as Chiefs owner, and never back-to-back games until this.
But Hunt was especially moved when Allen, inducted in the Hall of Fame this summer, chose Arrowhead for the ceremony in which he will officially receive his Hall ring.
--WR Johnnie Morton says he has been subpoenaed to appear at a Nov. 13 hearing in which he'll be a witness in an IRS investigation into the marketing and distribution of the synthetic steroid THG.
Morton is believed to be one of 10 current or former NFL players called in the government's investigation of Victor Conte and his Bay Arena Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) lab.
Conte, who founded BALCO, was raided in early September by agents of the IRS and a San Mateo County narcotics task force.
Morton insisted he has doing nothing wrong and has nothing to hide from investigators.
"I'm a witness for the IRS. That's it," he said. "I've done nothing wrong. Remember, (Conte) has a legitimate business, and I've used his supplements, but that's it."
The NFL, however, is still investigating to see if the supplements in question violate the league's substance abuse policy.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4-4 -- the Chiefs midpoint record in 2002. 1962 -- the last time the Chiefs had a first-half turnaround of as many as three games from one season to the next. The Dallas Texans, as they were known then, won the AFL Championship in the year of the turnaround. 9-0 -- a record achieved by only eight teams since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. 3 -- the number of Super Bowl winners among the last three teams to start a season 9-0, which the Chiefs could do with a win over Cleveland. 9 -- Kansas City's number of consecutive home victories.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're going into a hostile environment, and nobody's for us but the guys in this locker room, the community of Cleveland and the '72 Dolphins." -- Browns QB Kelly Holcomb, noting that Cleveland will have boosters outside of Ohio hoping the Browns can end Kansas City's bid to become the NFL's first unbeaten team since Miami in 1972.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Cornerback Eric Warfield, who has four interceptions and is off to the best start of his six-year NFL career, injured an Achilles tendon at Wednesday's practice and is considered questionable for Sunday's home game with Cleveland. Warfield felt the tendon pull early in the cold-weather workout and immediately removed himself from practice. He was taken for an MRI examination, the result of which was not immediately available, coach Dick Vermeil said.
--LB Mike Maslowski, the Chiefs starting Mike backer, says he feels healthy enough to play against Cleveland despite having a brace on the left knee he injured two weeks ago against Buffalo. "If there are no further setbacks this week, I plan on playing," said Maslowski, who injured the same knee that caused him to miss eight games in 2001. Maslowski took a limited number of repetitions Wednesday when the Chiefs practiced for 2 1/2 hours on a 35-degree day. He wanted to do more, but the Chiefs restricted him while giving rookie backup Kawika Mitchell more work.
--RB Larry Johnson, elevated from his third-team scout squad position to Priest Holmes's backup at running back this week, isn't taking that many more practice reps in his new depth squad spot, but at least he's now running Kansas City's offense instead of that of the upcoming opponent. Coach Dick Vermeil says the Chiefs won't go out of their way to get Johnson -- their first-round draft pick who has suited up for only one game this year -- any game-day snaps. But they want him ready for the stretch run should Holmes go down for any reason.
--CB William Bartee could see his first start of the '03 season if starting corner Eric Warfield cannot play on an Achilles tendon he tweaked at Wednesday's practice. Bartee missed the season's first five games with an ankle injury and only recently has returned to situational defense as the nickel back. He was a starter last year before missing time with the ankle injury and losing his starting job to veteran Dexter McCleon, who has five picks this year.
--FS Jerome Woods would move down from his starting position and play the nickel back position should Eric Warfield not be able to play against Cleveland and William Bartee opens in Warfield's spot. Woods played the nickel spot when Bartee was down for five games this year.
GAME PLAN: The weather has turned cold in the Midwest and it's time for the Chiefs to put special emphasis on their running game, especially against a defense giving up almost 130 ground yards a game. Cleveland's pass defense is considerably better -- second-ranked in the league -- so the Chiefs should rely more heavily on Priest Holmes as a runner and short-yardage receiver, and possibly his newly designated backup, first-round draft pick Larry Johnson.
Defensively, Kansas City has to do a better job of limiting Kelly Holcomb and the Rams passing game than they did a year ago in Cleveland. Holcomb caught the Chiefs by surprise and completed 27 of 39 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. With Eric Warfield ailing with an Achilles injury, this could be a time for Cleveland's woeful passing attack to get better.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Browns receivers Quincy Morgan, Dennis Northcutt, Kevin Johnson and Andre' Davis vs. Chiefs corners Dexter McCleon, William Bartee and Eric Warfield (if available) -- Yes, the Browns passing game is in a bit of turmoil right now, but if Bartee sees extensive action should Warfield not be available or at full speed, things could turn around quickly. That's especially true if Kansas City has to throw rookie corner Julian Battle into the mix.
--Browns LDE Courtney Brown vs. Chiefs RT John Tait -- Brown is off to a great start with six sacks. Tait has been steady all year, but could face one of his bigger challenges this season.
INJURY IMPACT: Starting CB Eric Warfield (questionable, Achilles) bears watching throughout the week after injuring his heel tendon during Wednesday's workout. The Chiefs were anxiously awaiting the results of an MRI exam. William Bartee, just coming back himself from an injury (ankle), would play in Warfield's absence, and he would be hard pressed to play at the same level.
--LB Mike Maslowski (questionable, knee) says he plans on playing against Cleveland, but the Chiefs may have other ideas. They don't want to risk putting the same knee that was injured twice in '01 into unnecessary jeopardy. Rookie backup Kawika Mitchell will likely see his largest amount of snaps even if Maz does play.
The Chiefs, coming off their bye week, are in good condition otherwise.