Bears Stand in the Way

Back in 1993 the Chiefs could have locked up home field advantage in the playoffs by defeating the lowly Bears at home late that season.

Joe Montana was the quarterback that season and thanks to a tipped pass by tight end Jonathan Hayes, the Bears defeated Kansas City and the Chiefs season ended with a tail whipping in the AFC Championship game in Buffalo. The outcome might have been different if the Bills played in Arrowhead instead of Rich Stadium where the teams Super Bowl dreams came up short.

Whether or not that's the case this time around has yet to be determined; New England is set to battle the Buffalo Bills on Saturday. But one thing is certain before kick-off on Sunday the Chiefs will either control their playoff destiny or be playing a meaningless game to close out their stellar 2003 season.

If the game means something, then the Chiefs will no doubt be focused and should take care of business. The Bears will be without their two best wide receivers as Dez White and former Missouri Tiger standout Justin Gage will be sitting out this game nursing injuries.

They'll also be facing a rookie quarterback in Rex Grossman who has two NFL starts on his resume. Both of those starts were at home and Grossman stands 2-0 as the Bears starter. He is the future of the Bears offense and this will be his first road test. He's had wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins.

The Bears though won't feature Grossman but instead will rely on the legs of running back Anthony Thomas. The Bears back could get the ball 40 times on Sunday. Thomas only needs 37 yards to reach 1000 on the season and against the Chiefs run defense that should not be a very easy goal to reach.

If Thomas can move the chains on offense, then Grossman could take some chances down the field. Though White and Gage are out, Marty Booker has scored four touchdowns this season and with cornerback Eric Warfield out for this game, the Bears could have some opportunities to make some big gains.

The Chiefs run defense has been torched the last six games giving up 1200 yards rushing and a dozen touchdowns on the ground. Thomas might be the most punishing back they'll face in that stretch.

On defense the Bears are led by all-world and sometimes overrated linebacker Brian Urlacher. He leads the team with 109 tackles, (80 solo) and has 1.5 sacks. Not known for rushing the quarterback Urlacher can create havoc on opposing running backs. Outside of Baltimore's Ray Lewis, Urlacher might have no peers at stopping the run.

But the surprise on defense is rookie cornerback Charles Tillman. His theft of a Randy Moss pass two weeks ago has made him a legend in Chicago. That interception in the end zone showed this young corner has quickly adapted to the NFL.

The Chiefs though are clearly the better team. On paper, the Bears don't match up well on either side of the ball. But the Chiefs after going 3-3 in their last six games are looking to find their swagger they lost after starting the season 9-0.

This game, regardless of its home field advantage implications, needs to be a momentum game for the Chiefs as they begin their second season in the playoffs in two weeks.

They already have secured a home field bye and are guaranteed at least the #2 spot in the AFC playoffs. But despite that, Kansas City needs to play well in all three phases.

Offensively they need to be more balanced. They've relied too much on their passing game and have not focused their offense on the legs of running back Priest Holmes. For Holmes he needs one more touchdown to break the rushing scoring mark of 25 set by Emmitt Smith. He's currently tied with Smith after this three touchdown performance last Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings.

But Holmes with two touchdowns can break another rushing record. The Rams Marshall Faulk scored 26 combined touchdowns back in 1999 and Holmes would need two touchdowns either on the ground or in the air to hold that mark on his own.

After an off-season of rehab and doubters, Holmes could make his case for league MVP with two touchdowns on Sunday. The Chiefs need to focus on getting the ball in the hands of Holmes early and often as long as he's in the game.

Trent Green also needs to bounce back after his worst performance of the year against the Vikings. Green looked human and never found a rhythm offensively. He tried to force too many balls downfield and did not hit open receivers underneath the coverage. He needed to sustain drives instead of going for home run passes. It cost him and the Chiefs one of their most embarrassing losses of the year.

Wide receiver Johnnie Morton needs to be one of those players on offense who needs to step up his game. He continues to drop key passes on third downs and has made little impact on the offense over the past six games. If not for the injury to Marc Boerigter, Morton might be on the bench. One player who has stepped up his game is Eddie Kennison. He's stopped dropping passes and been the only constant receiver on offense over the same span.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez might have a tough game as the Bears linebackers are very good in coverage and their safety play can be effective enough in slowing down the All Pro tight end. But the difference in the game will be the offensive line. They've not played very well the last several weeks and though this will be their 32nd consecutive game they start as a unit. They need to be dominate today so they can be dominate in the post season.

If the Chiefs are going to make it to the Super Bowl, then they ‘Five Horseman' need to play at a higher level then they've played the last six weeks. On Sunday they need to start a new streak.

Nick's Notes

* Sunday could be Dick Vermeil's last regular season game as coach of the Chiefs. Vermeil indicated earlier this week that he'd make a decision about his coaching future sometime before the season ended. He was not specific if that meant before the regular season or sometime during the playoffs. But all signs indicate toward a Vermeil return for next season and beyond. Expect an announcement early next week.

* Starting linebacker Mike Maslowski and cornerback Eric Warfield will be out this Sunday. Reserve linebacker Monte Biesel will also miss another game. With that the Chiefs will see more of linebacker Kawika Mitchell and cornerback Julian Battle. Mitchell has struggled since filling in for Maz. Battle has show signs of being a good football player as he has developing in to a key contributor on special teams. Battle could very well supplant Eric Warfield next year as a starter.

* If the Chiefs game means little to improving their playoff seeding on Sunday, expect players like linebacker Shawn Barber wide receiver Marc Boerigter to name a couple should sit out and rest their nagging injuries. The Chiefs will need a healthy and cast free Shawn Barber in the playoffs and if he does not need to play Sunday, he should sit out. As for Boerigter, he will be a key cog in the Chiefs playoffs offense. The last thing he needs to do is play on a sore ankle in a meaningless game.

* The Chiefs hope to push their franchise best home winning streak to 13 game with a win over the Bears on Sunday. The streak began back in the 2002 season and Kansas City has been a perfect 7-0 this season at home. Dick Vermeil and company has made Arrowhead stadium the most difficult stadium to play in for opposing teams. The atmosphere, the fans and the teams are all at their best at home. The Chiefs are hoping that streak continues on Sunday and can be followed up by two more at home.

Fearless Prediction : Chiefs 31 – Bears 13

Season Prognostication Record : 11-4

2003 Game Recaps
Week #16: Vikings 45 – Chiefs 20
Week #15: Chiefs 45 – Lions 17
Week #14: Broncos 45 – Chiefs 27
Week #13: Chiefs 28 – Chargers 24
Week #12: Chiefs 27- Raiders 24
Week #11: Bengals 24 – Chiefs 19
Week #10: Chiefs 41 - Browns 20
Week # 9: Bye Week
Week # 8: Chiefs 38 – Bills 5
Week # 7: Chiefs 17 – Oakland 10
Week # 6: Chiefs 40 – Packers 34 OT
Week # 5: Chiefs 24 – Broncos 23
Week # 4: Chiefs 17 – Ravens 10
Week # 3: Chiefs 42 – Texans 14
Week # 2: Chiefs 41 - Steelers 20
Week # 1: Chiefs 24 – Chargers 14


WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories