With Three Combined Wins AFC West Is Struggling

The AFC West was once the most dominating division in the NFL but thus far the 2004 season has seen all four teams get off to rocky starts. Last Sunday, the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos all lost while the Raiders grabbed their first victory of the season.

The Kansas City Chiefs are used to wining their home openers but that didn't happen this year. For a second week in a row they were dominated by a rushing attack. Without Stephen Davis the Carolina Panthers didn't miss a beat on the ground. Deshaun Foster took a 71-yard hand off to the end zone with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter putting the Chiefs down by 11 points, a deficit that Kansas City would not be able to overcome. Foster had 32 carries and 174 yards and Gunther Cunningham's defense all of the sudden doesn't appear to be any better than Greg Robinson's a year ago.

The Chiefs only had the ball for 24:45 as Carolina controlled the clock the entire game. Each of the Panthers four scoring drives were long going for 56, 66, 74 and 80 yards each resulting with a touchdown. Jake Delhomme passed for 180 yards and the Panthers established a balanced offense that kept the Chiefs potent but banged up offense on the sideline. Eric Warfield did pick off Delhomme twice and supplemented that with five tackles.

On offense the Chiefs injuries have shown to slow them up a bit. Trent Green had an off day as he only passed for 187 yards. Priest Holmes was held to 66 yards on only 16 attempts. The decision to keep rookie kicker Lawrence Tynes over veteran Morten Anderson hasn't seemed to pay off either. Tynes out of Troy State missed his second field goal of the season putting him at 50% for the season. It will be a battle of winless teams next week when the Houston Texans come to Arrowhead Stadium.

The Denver Broncos beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in just about every stat on the sheet except for the most important one, the final score losing to the Jags 7-6 on the road. Denver put up 356 yards compared to 176 for Jacksonville. The Broncos also held the ball for 37:08 controlling the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game. Quentin Griffin was held in check posting just 66-yards on the day.

There is never a good time to have a fumble but Griffin had one at the absolute worst time. Driving down the field, the Broncos had a third down play in field goal range. Trying to gain a few extra yards to set up Jason Elam, who missed a field goal earlier in the day, the Plummer to Griffin hand-off didn't come clean and the Jaguars were able to recover with :37 seconds left in the game.

Jacksonville's defense was stout and the Broncos went 6-17 on third down conversions. Every time a Bronco player seemed to get his hands on the ball in open space multiple Jaguars would converge shutting the offensive attack down. The Broncos go back to Invesco field next Sunday when they play their second divisional game of the year versus the San Diego Chargers.

The San Diego Chargers didn't fare much better than the Chiefs and Broncos on Sunday spotting the New York Jets 17 points before getting on the scoreboard themselves. Battling back all the Chargers didn't have enough firepower to match the 2-0 Jets and San Diego fell to 1-1 on the season. Drew Brees left the game with a concussion in the fourth quarter after going 8-19 for 146 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions. LaDainian Tomlinson carried the bulk of the Chargers offense getting 87 yards on 19 carries. Tomlinson didn't get the carries he needed for a bigger game once San Diego found themselves on the short end of the scoreboard trying to play catch up all day.

Chad Pennington was awesome for the Jets connecting on more than 75% of his pass attempts racking up 258 yards and a couple of scores. Curtis Martin went over 100 yards for the second consecutive week making his case for the best running back in the league so far this season. As mentioned before San Diego goes on the road to Denver next week.

The Oakland Raiders had the best showing in the division on Sunday beating the 0-2 Buffalo Bills 13-10. Drew Bledsoe was battered all day by the Raiders defense getting sacked seven times on the afternoon. The Raiders improved to 1-1 after a close loss to the Steelers last week. An early fourth quarter goal line stand helped the Raiders cause when Travis Henry was turned away from the end zone.

The big story of the day seems rather insignificant but it was the first time since December 1, 1985 that Jerry Rice did not have a catch in a game. Rice was clearly distraught on the sideline but later joked around and set his sights on starting a new streak. Ronald Curry, the former North Carolina Tar Heel star quarterback may have finally found his niche in the NFL with his first touchdown of the season playing wide receiver for the Raiders. Curry caught five balls on the day falling just short of the century mark with 89 yards.

Rich Gannon went 19 for 27 with a touchdown piling up 209 yards. A trio of running backs didn't show well for the Raiders as they managed only 53 yards rushing but Gannon had 24 yards rushing himself as the Raiders running game remains stuck in the mud. Jon Gruden returns to Oakland next week when his 0-2 Tampa Bay squad comes in for the Super Bowl rematch of two years ago.


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