The defense has been at the center of the Chiefs 3-3 train wreck over the last six games. Players are fighting in the locker room, on the field and with their coaches on the sidelines. Tempers are rising and if the Chiefs are going to advance in the playoffs, the defense is going to have to step up and prove the last six games have been a fluke.
You can scream and cry all you want about the defensive schemes designed by Greg Robinson. But that means nothing anymore. Bottom line is the players on the defense are not making plays. Can they make plays in the playoffs? Heck yes! And they will!
Because they are proud men and Vermeil won't let them fail. Despite their poor play on defense the last six games, they have talent. Vermeil will have these players focused and ready for the challenge that lay ahead. Today against the Bears, Vermeil's gift as a motivator will shine through as he believes his players will step up and play a solid game on defense.
Now with a rookie quarterback on the field for the Bears today in Rex Grossman, two wide receivers in Dez White and Justin Gage out with injuries, the Chiefs will focus on the A-Train (Anthony Thomas). Thomas is a man among boys and is a younger version of Jamal Lewis. He could run the ball 40 times today and if that happens, the Chiefs run defense will get a major test. If they pass, then the Chiefs will be ready for the playoffs. If not, they'll be ready when they get injured linebackers Mike Maslowski and Monty Biesel and cornerback Eric Warfield back in two weeks for their first round playoff game at home.
Today is more about attitude and making strong plays on defense and keeping the Bears out of the end zone. If that can be accomplished and the Chiefs with an injury riddled defense can survive today against the Bears, then they can reduce some of the questions that surround their defense.
The offense led by Trent Green needs to do more than chase the touchdown record for Priest Holmes. They need to run, pass and go back to a smash mouth mentality if they're going to succeed in the playoffs. The Super Bowl aspirations of this team rest solely on Trent Green and his offensive mates. They can't lay any more eggs. They've done it three times this season and all were losses. When the offense is humming, getting first downs, converting on third downs, there is not a defense in the NFL that can stop them at home or on the road.
Holmes has to be featured the rest of the way. He is going to carry them into the playoffs. He needs to get into triple digits in rushing yards and be featured in the passing game. They need to throw him screen passes until the other team can stop him. With that said, the other key component is the offensive line. They should dominate every team in the AFC playoffs. There is not a better offensive line than the one in Kansas City. But the last six games they've rested on their laurels and not played up to their Pro Bowl level. That has to change starting this afternoon against the Bears.
The other missing ingredient has been Dante Hall. He's so wrapped up in getting his fifth return for a touchdown that he's been ineffective in most return attempts. His job is to get the Chiefs offense better field position. Opposing teams are kicking to him again because they think Hall can be stopped. The only one stopping Hall is himself. He has to go against the grain more and reverse his field. He's not being aggressive and its far better to get a 20 or 30-yard gain than no gain. Hall is a momentum changer. He has to be the X-Factor in the playoffs. If all he needs is to break the record, than he better get it done today.
The Chiefs have had a great season to date. They are AFC West Champs finished with a winning record and are set to make their first playoff appearance in six years. Out of sixteen AFC teams, they are among two that earned a bye week in the playoffs and have only to win TWO games to get to the Super Bowl.
Chiefs fans need to take a deep breath and enjoy the teams' 2003 success to date. Now it's up to Vermeil, his coaching staff and the players to stop the madness and pin their heels back and attack. That will cure all their ill wills and help propel them into the Super Bowl.
Regardless of the experts and the band wagon departures, the Chiefs are still one of the elite teams in the NFL. They're record backs it up.