Detroit Lions @ Kansas City Chiefs – Rewind
1. Trent Green had a perfect game against the Detroit Lions. His three touchdown performance was masterful and his execution of the offense against the Lions was flawless. Green might have played his best game of the season and if he can continue to make great decisions on the field, nobody is going to score more points then the Chiefs in the playoffs. I can tell you one thing. If the Chiefs had played a better defensive team with that offensive rhythm, the score would have been the same. There is not a team in the NFL that can stop the Chiefs the way they played offensively on Sunday against the Lions.
2. Only negative about the defense because they weren't that bad. Besides it's the only one we have and they need all the positive energy they can get. The problem with the defense is very simple. They need to attack the line of scrimmage with more force. They need to forget the stunts and attack the offensive line and go man on man. They need to forget their read and react defensive tendencies and focus on bottling up the runner before he can get past the defensive line. They need to pinch in their defensive ends to go after the ball. And they need to blitz to stop the big pass play and the big running play. I expect when Mike Maslowski is back in the middle that will happen.
3. Priest Holmes can establish a new touchdown record if he can cross the goal line four more times in the next two games. The NFL record set by Emmitt Smith is at 25 and Holmes has 22 and counting. The way Holmes ran the ball on Sunday was reminiscent of how he ran before the hip injury. There is no doubt Holmes is still not 100% but he's getting much closer and that's good news for the Chiefs. Holmes will have to carry the load the next six weeks if the Chiefs are going to make it to the Super Bowl.
4. Tony Gonzalez grabbed two more touchdown passes. Give offensive coordinator Al Saunders kudos for finding ways to get Gonzalez more active in the passing game. After struggling for a couple of years in the system, Gonzalez is having his finest all around season. He like Holmes will have to continue his stellar play for the Chiefs to survive and advance in the playoffs.
5. I admit I was wrong about Derrick Blaylock. His touchdown run and catch reminded me of Todd McNair. The former Chiefs scat back that turned short gains into long ones. Blaylock is not a fixture in the Chiefs offense and he's a good change of pace runner for Kansas City. He's always had blazing speed but never showed the power to break tackles. He's learned that this year and when he's in the game, defenses will have to make sure they know where he is at all times.
6. Speaking of running backs. It was good to see running back Larry Johnson back on the field on Sunday. He ran some mop up duty late in the fourth quarter. After his incident last week before the Denver game, I thought Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil showed an incredible amount of class getting Johnson some playing time against the Lions.
7. I thought Kawika Mitchell played a decent game at middle linebacker. He made a terrific catch off a tipped pass for his first career interception. He still needs to learn to break away from blockers and attack the running back. He had Shawn Bryson wrapped up on that long run but could not free himself from the blocker. But give the Lions credit as well. They have a very young and talented offensive line that could blossom into one of the better lines in the NFC in the next year or two.
8. For the first time in weeks, fullback Tony Richardson was playing without that bulky cast. He broke a couple of bones in his hand against the Browns back in November but he was able to continue playing. But I thought T-Rich had one of his best games this season. Though the ‘Five Horseman' usually earn all the credit, T-Rich made some punishing blocks that allowed Holmes to score all of his touchdowns on Sunday. When T-Rich is healthy and active, the Chiefs offense is at its best.
9. The Chiefs increased their consecutive home winning streak to a dirty dozen after defeating the Lions. The streak began in the 2002 season and it's likely with one more home game against the Chicago Bears, that streak will be in tact entering the 2004 season. That's an amazing accomplishment.
10. To those few fans that booed the Chiefs defense after the long run, shame on you. The defense only gave up 17 points. That happens to be the same amount the Broncos gave up against the Lions earlier in the season. The Chiefs are 12-2 and AFC West Champs because of the same defense that was being showered with ill-advised choruses of disappointment.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Minnesota Vikings
1. Stop Randy Moss. It's that simple. The Chiefs cornerbacks have been waiting for a game like this. On astro-turf, they should be able to use their speed and play solid bump and run coverage. They won't have to worry about lose surfaces this week. Moss has had some amazing games this season but the Bears did a good job of shutting him down. The way to stop Randy Moss is to chuck him at the line of scrimmage and use a safety to double cover him past the line of scrimmage.
2. The other way to beat the Vikings is to put pressure on quarterback Daunte Culpepper. If he isn't allowed to throw the ball downfield, the Chiefs can force him into mistakes. Though he might not throw interceptions, he has a tendency to throw the ball away when he gets pressure. Culpepper has a gun for an arm but has been unable to really stretch a defense the last eight games. After a 6-0 start, Culpepper has only guided the Vikings two times to victories in that time frame. Chiefs can't let him sit back in the pocket with time to throw.
3.The Chiefs defense will have a tough day stopping running back Onterrio Smith. He ran all over the Bears who have a strong rushing defense. He racked up 148 yards on 27 carries and he's likely to be featured this week. All Kansas City has to do is bottle him up and not let him get outside. If the linebackers play more aggressive, then they can shit down the Vikings running game. Like the Lions, they'll try to exploit the Chiefs inability to stop the run.
4. The one area the Chiefs can exploit when on offense is the Vikings secondary. They are slow and not very talented. Even better the Minnesota defensive line does not put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Chiefs offensive line should be able to give Trent Green plenty of time to find a plethora of open receivers.
5. I think Dante Hall will be special on Saturday. Not only will he get that elusive fifth touchdown return this week but he could have another 100-yard receiving day. Marc Boerigter is not going to play on Saturday so expect Hall to get numerous balls thrown to him this week. The Chiefs will take advantage of the fast surface and designed several plays that gets Hall the ball in open spaces.
6. I expect Kansas City will use more of the no-huddle offense to counter measure the noise in the Homer Dome. The Metrodome is one of the louder stadiums in the NFL but the Vikings fans have spent more time booing their team than cheering at home. Kansas City does not want to allow the fans to be a part of this game and if the offense finds rhythm early, expect the balls to be flying out of Green's hands into wide open receivers.
7. Priest Holmes should also get more balls this week. With the TD record within his reach and the fast surface, expect the Chiefs to utilize Holmes not only in the running game but the passing game. The Vikings are susceptible to counter running plays and screen passes. Holmes could tie the touchdown record in the first half.
8. The Vikings are now tied with Green Bay for the NFC North Division lead so it's important for the Chiefs to get out early and establish a solid lead. They have their own reasons for winning this game because the New England Patriots have a road game at New York to face the Jets later Saturday Night. The Chiefs need to attack on offense and never lose site in their pursuit of the end zone.
9. Safeties Greg Wesley and Jerome Woods need to step up their game this weekend. With the downfield passing abilities of Culpepper, they need to take advantage of obvious passing situations. They need to read the eyes of Culpepper and understand it will be Moss first and everyone else second. Plus they need to do a much better job supporting the run and taking advantage of their opportunities when they are asked to blitz.
10. The Chiefs have a 15-2 record against NFC opponents since 1995. That's an amazing statistic and one that should continue the next couple of weeks. That record is the best in the NFL in that time frame. One reason for the dominance is the fact the Chiefs are always at an advantage against NFC teams because of their diversity. Plus the NFC is a lower scoring conference and the Chiefs this season lead the league in scoring.
Around the AFC West
1. Finally Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer made a good decision. After fluttering and sputtering with quarterback Doug Flutie the last five games, Schottenheimer turned the reigns back over to Drew Brees against the Green Bay Packers. In his return to the lineup, Brees threw for 363 yards and connected on 28 of 48 passes.
2.Brees had the Chargers in a great position to win the game as he threw two fourth quarter touchdown to LaDainian Tomlinson. But Green Bay behind Brett Favre scored 21 unanswered points as the Packers future hall of fame quarterback threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter in their 38-31 win.
3.The Chargers defensive backfield continues to get torched. Considering San Diego has drafted every single college cornerback and safety they could the last two drafts, it appears to me that they need to do a better job in their personnel department. Many of their draft picks, though gaining experience, seem to be less talented than predicted.
4. Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan has to be thanking the NFL Gods today. After his team rallied to tie the game in regulation at 20-20, he tried to kill running back Clinton Portis. With the Broncos well within field goal range in overtime, Portis almost got his legs ripped off and had to leave the game with a sore ankle and knee. He is questionable for their Sunday Night showdown against the Colts at Indianapolis. The Broncos did win the game 23-20.
5. I have to give props to Jake Plummer who made the plays late in regulation and overtime that once again saved the Broncos season. After his performance against the Chiefs, Plummer was not sharp against the Browns. But when he had to make plays, he made them and that's the sign of a winning quarterback.
6. On the downside of the Broncos game, they obviously were flat against the Browns and that can't happen the next two weeks with road games at Indy and Green Bay. However, Butch Davis was the key to the Broncos good fortune late in the game. With less than two minutes to go and the Broncos with no timeouts, Cleveland only needed one more first down to insure that the Broncos would not get the ball back. But Davis called three ridiculous plays that set up the go ahead field goal. That conservative play calling cost his team a win. They were already in field goal position and simply tried to be too fancy instead of using what had worked all game long. Why this guy is coaching an NFL team is beyond me.
7. Denver is now the front-runner for the last wild card slot in the AFC. They are still in this position thanks to a friendly quirk in their home schedule. Denver just completed a stretch where they enjoyed home cooking five out of the last six weeks. But as stated, now they must try and keep that playoff spot by winning their final two games of the year on the road. Denver stands 3-3 on the road.
8. Raiders WIN! Amazing what a little luck, terrible officiating and a 41-year old wide receiver can do for a struggling football team. The Raiders beat a playoff team the Baltimore Ravens 20-12 and actually played one of their best games of the season. However, the officiating crew on this game was poor as the Ravens were robbed on a couple of instant replay calls that Helen Keller would have reversed.
9. One bright spot for the Raiders was the play of their defense. They harassed and chased Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright all over the field. But more importantly they did a decent job of stopping running back Jamal Lewis. Though he gained 125 yards on 24 carries, they kept him out of the end zone.
10. Rumors are running rampant in league circles that Raiders head coach Bill Callahan will be fired at the conclusion of the season. Former Minnesota Vikings head coach Dennis Green appears to be the front-runner for the job. But the Atlanta Falcons are also rumored to be interested in Green. Al Davis is going to have to find someone who can coach some young players next season. It's likely the Raiders will release as many as 10-12 veterans and take a serious cap hit in 2004.